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Clinton Africa Trip Seen as Move to Counter Chinese Influence

  • Peter Clottey

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, July 25, 2012.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, July 25, 2012.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to meet Senegal President Macky Sall Wednesday at the state of her six-nation Africa visit.

American University professor Emilio Viano said one of the objectives of Clinton’s visit is to compete with the growing influence of China in Africa.

“One of the major objectives of the visit is to compete with China and try to limit China’s influence, business making and political power in Africa,” said Viano.

Viano said it appears the Obama administration wants to change what he called the country’s neglect of Africa. He said Washington seems to have concerns about China’s growing influence in the continent.

“China is looking for guaranteed sources of resources… and, therefore, it has a major presence in many African countries. This is of concern to the US, first of all, because of competitive reasons,” Viano explained.

“The U.S. wants to use this [visit] as a maneuver to limit the influence of China. This will not be done openly; it will be done, of course, diplomatically without naming names, but certainly cautioning African leaders not to strike deals too easily with China," said Viano.

He said China’s policy of not asking questions surrounding human rights and governance and labor laws give it an advantage in its relations with African countries.

Viano said Clinton will likely congratulate Sall on Senegal’s democracy. Senegal inaugurated a new parliament Monday with a coalition led by Sall’s party, which holds a large majority. Many observers described both the presidential and parliamentary elections as free and fair.

“The secretary wants to applaud Senegal’s democracy because there were some problems with these elections that were eventually solved democratically, and this is very important as an example in Africa,” said Viano. “There is also a preoccupation concerning the part of the US to show support for Senegal that has a border with Mali [where Islamists control the country’s north] in any eventuality that this conflict might spill over.”

Some observers say the Islamists controlling northern Mali are linked to the al-Qaida terror network.

Viano said Sall is likely to ask for America’s help to resolve the security crisis in Mali’s north.

“I’m sure that is going to be part of the conversation where Senegal wants to make sure that there are assurances from Washington that, should al- Qaida and its allies try to move into Senegal, particularly to acquire access to the sea, that the US would stand by and provide assistance just as it did [in Uganda] by sending 100 special forces to help with the Lord’s Resistance Army,” said Viano.

He said Washington now appears to want to reaffirm its interests across Africa.

“It [the Clinton trip] is trying to recoup quite a bit of neglect of Africa, along with Latin America, in the past administration of George W Bush and also, in part, during this [Obama] administration,” said Viano. “They are now trying to catch up with time with Secretary Clinton’s work in Africa…but now they want to reaffirm the presence and the interests and the support of the US and, most of all, the business aspect, and this will be most visible particularly in South Africa.

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