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

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll 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.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs