News / Africa

US-China Rivalry Exemplified in Obama Visit to Tanzania

Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hand with traditional dancers upon his arrival at Julius Nyerere International airport in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, March 24, 2013.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hand with traditional dancers upon his arrival at Julius Nyerere International airport in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, March 24, 2013.
Gabe Joselow
One of the goals of U.S. President Barack Obama’s upcoming tour of Africa is to promote U.S. business interests across a continent now dominated by China. The competition between the economic giants is playing out in Tanzania, the last stop on Obama’s tour.

While in Tanzania’s economic hub, Dar es Salaam, the president is due to meet Monday with American and African business leaders to find ways to get U.S. companies a foothold in African markets.

U.S. companies have been trailing behind China in African investment, and China recently overtook the United States as Africa’s largest trading partner.

Even Obama’s visit to Tanzania follows in the wake of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s trip to the East African country in March.

Falling behind

The director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council in Washington, J. Peter Pham, said the United States has some catching up to do.

“China is well ahead not because it necessarily offers the best deal, but rather because it often offers the only deal," said Pham. "American businesses, by and large, have not - with the exception of those involved in resource extraction - have not really fully discovered the potential in the African market.”

Pham said the United States also has failed to sustain some of the previous investments it has made in Africa, allowing China to get the upper-hand.

Take Tanzania as an example. In 2008, under former U.S. President George W. Bush, the U.S.-funded Millennium Challenge Corporation signed a nearly $700-million compact with Tanzania to improve roads and other infrastructure in the country.

It is the most funding the aid agency has ever awarded. But much of that money is going, more or less directly, to Chinese companies who have won construction contracts to implement the projects.

Chinese face time

So not only do Chinese firms benefit from the work, but Tanzanian citizens see Chinese construction crews building roads and laying pipes.

Pham says hiring Chinese firms to do American-financed work is, in a way, self-defeating for U.S. interests.

“If the purpose of foreign assistance is to win hearts and minds - ordinary people do not look into the fine print of who finances what, they see who does what,” he said.

The United States has downplayed any concerns about China’s growth in Africa or that they are in direct competition.

“There is a lot of, I think, angst [worry] about things that change in trade relationships and when relationships change and new players come in. But I do not think there is a lot to be too concerned or upset about the rise of China,” said South Africa-based U.S. Senior Commercial Officer Larry Farris.

Farris added that development, no matter who is behind it, is good for Africans.

Mercenary approach

China and the United States also have a markedly different approach to African aid and investment.

When Xi visited Tanzania in March he emphasized that his country would always offer assistance with no political strings attached.

American assistance, though, often is tied to political or economic reforms.

University of Nairobi political science chair Adams Oloo said the United States has a tricky task in balancing its ideals with its business interests.

“While China on the other hand is like, ‘I will do business with anybody, what goes on inside that country is none of my business.’ And I think that is quite a challenge for the West, how to counter China and the East while at the same time holding the values that they want to see implemented in East African countries,” said Oloo.

This trip is Obama’s second visit to Africa since he visited Ghana during his first term in office in 2009, during which time he spent less than 24 hours on the continent.

You May Like

Multimedia US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents and police More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Ngwilo Mwakyusa from: Dar es salaam
June 29, 2013 3:24 PM
China comes to Africa with a policy of "win-win situation" on the other hand offering assistance with no political and economic strings tied which is quite different from USA.....without changing their policy toward africa they will be left far behind by China


by: Nick Marwa from: Europe
June 28, 2013 1:35 PM
Love Obama, Love Tanzania


by: Ngoni Simelane from: Johannesburg
June 26, 2013 5:56 AM
The statement by Peter Palm that “China is well ahead not because it necessarily offers the best deal, but rather because it often offers the only deal" is false... China is well ahead because it does not attach economic or political conditions to doing business with Africa. The ignorant statement by Palm is an example of the kind of outdated postulations that analysts and academics that are out of touch with 21st century Africa continue to make... and that will continue to see the United States under perform in the Africa growth story because they are being ill advised.


by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
June 25, 2013 8:45 PM
The US provided 700 million dollars to Tanzania for development of infra structure by the Chinese government construction companies! Chinese were the only bidders for the construction projects in Tanzania. After all the money is spent President Obama is going to Tanzania to improve trade relations between the two countries. President Obama cannot redeem the American stupidity.


by: Bajie Zhu
June 25, 2013 7:27 PM
The reality is that China has certain core competitive advantages. By holding the nation's denizens for decades on end to lower living standards, China now has the world's largest steel, cement, aluminum, construction machinery, and other related industries. Doing infrastructure using Chinese teams (both hardware and software and personnel) costs 30% less than any Western offerings, AND the Chinese companies still make profit at those prices. So the normative is that the Chinese crews are going to get the infrastructure and construction jobs all around the globe.

Instead of beating heads against walls and trying to beat the Chinese at that game, a developed nation like America has to go back to its core competencies and concentrate in areas in which the U.S.A. has a comparative advantage.

In Response

by: Adam Mkwela from: MBEYA,TANZANIA
June 27, 2013 10:06 AM
Its not true that we are the only ones dealing with the Chinese. Its just the new game in town. Ask NIKE,APPLE and all the big global players currently off-shoring their manufacturing to the P.R.C.These guys are little smarter...!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid