US-China tensions: How Africa can avoid being caught in a new Cold War

John J Stremlau, Monday 20 Mar 2023

China’s foreign ministry published a 4,000-word analysis entitled US Hegemony and its Perils on 20 February. It’s an indictment of alleged US foreign interference, intimidation and interventions that began 200 years ago.

File Photo: Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and President Joe Biden at the G-20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia, on Nov. 14, 2022. AFP

This was followed by President Xi Jinping’s accusation at the Communist Party National Congress in March that the US was pursuing an unprecedented global policy to contain and suppress Chinese development.

US official reaction to the Chinese accusations has been muted. But the recent US shooting down of an alleged Chinese spy balloon escalated tensions. There are fears that escalating US-Chinese tensions might threaten the independence of African and other nonaligned nations.

This essay seeks to contribute to an overdue debate among Africans about how to avoid being entangled in US-China global rivalry, while maintaining productive partnerships with both nations. It draws on my many years of teaching and research on Africa’s changing international relations.

I hope it will encourage other scholars and policy makers across Africa to assess the hegemony statement in the light of their own interests and values. Finally, this essay is intended to encourage debate about what each topic realistically implies for Africa continent.

The topics in the statement are:

– Political hegemony, (America) throwing its weight around

– Military hegemony, wanton use of force

– Economic hegemony, looting and exploitation

– Technological hegemony, monopoly and suppression

– Cultural hegemony, spreading false narratives.

Although Chinese rhetoric is harsh, the initiatives and interactions of China and the US in Africa under each heading illustrate my general belief that their competition in Africa has been, and can be, both peaceful and productive.

Political Hegemony

China’s indictment ranges from US efforts at hemispheric domination beginning in the early 19th century to fomenting the “colour revolutions”, non-violent protests that overthrew autocratic regimes in the three post-Soviet republics Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.

But, China’s vision of the US glosses over the volatility of US domestic politics. Domestic concerns can alter foreign policy, a leader’s ideology, and political and historical circumstances.

Domestically, China too has undergone several political upheavals since the civil war that brought the Communist Party to power in 1949. If China underestimates US domestic swings, US analysts may exaggerate the global impact of Chinese internal pressures.

During my election work for the Carter Centre in Africa, from 2006-2015, I was impressed by Chinese and American representatives able to seek common ground and learn from each other.

At higher levels of diplomacy, China and the US have used summits with African leaders to set broad guidelines of cooperation in trade and investment, climate, public health, building infrastructure and other areas.

These should help African leaders decide areas of comparative advantage for them, in dealing with the two major powers.

The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation differs from US initiatives, the most recent being the US-Africa Partnership in Promoting Peace, Security, and Democratic Governance. Neither major power appears to me to harbour hegemonic presumptions, as African leaders test their abilities to be productively nonaligned.

These high-level channels to both superpowers might yield more if African regional economic communities and the African Union made more concerted efforts to develop complementary and cumulative strategies for pressing African priorities.

Extending the US African Growth and Opportunity Act to ensure favourable access to US markets is one example. Managing debt obligations for China’s important “Belt and Road” investments in African infrastructure is another.

Military And Economic Hegemony

The differences in what Africa had to contend with during the US-Soviet Cold War and today’s US-China rivalry are most pronounced in areas of military and economic hegemony.

Neither China nor the US seem poised to use Africa to test political military resolve, as the US and Soviets did when they fought proxy wars in Angola during the 1970s, for example.

African national and multilateral bodies should lobby China and America to back African-led peace operations within African states.

Globally, economic interdependence between China and the US will remain vital for sustained growth and prosperity for both nations.

Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping are committed to reviving their domestic economies. They both want greater equality, less corruption, and sustained growth. Neither appears to want or need to foment conflicts in Africa.

African governments rightly pursue support from both China and the US for regional integration and cooperation, such as the African Continental Free Trade Area.

Greater Chinese and US economic engagement in response to African collective appeals could also become a confidence building measure between China and the US. This rarely happened during the Cold War.

Back then, the US was aligned with European colonial powers and the apartheid regime in South Africa. The Soviets backed liberation forces. Today, such polarisation doesn’t exist.

The Chinese statement on US hegemony rightly notes the US is plagued by domestic violence and has a history of failures in military interventions. [US analysts acknowledge] this.

But US domestic resistance to new foreign military adventures became bipartisan and popular for the past decade.

African nations should hold America and China to account for their avowed commitments to respecting core UN principles of sovereign equality and territorial integrity.

Equally, they must hold Russia to account for blatantly violating those principles by invading Ukraine.

Technological Hegemony

Benefits and risks of new technologies are well known. Communication, data retrieval and collection, and artificial intelligence bring both promise and peril that Africa must navigate carefully.

This is becoming all the more pressing as progress in artificial intelligence accelerates. Neither China nor the US need to be hegemonic in making available technologies that spur Africa’s development.

More issues of contention need to be resolved with the help of scientists and scholars from China, US, and Africa. The availability of Huawei 5G is a particularly contentious issue.

Perhaps interested scientists and members of the African Research Universities Alliance could work with their Chinese and US counterparts to establish guidelines and mediation capabilities.

Cultural Hegemony

US crimes against Africans began in earnest in 1619 with the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Its sediments persist today.

But? The African diaspora has become a key political constituency of the Democratic Party. It is a fast growing demographic. In music, sports, arts, these Americans are invaluable conveyors of soft power in Africa.

China does not have similar ties with Africa. But, it has recently become more active culturally across the continent, as evident in its network of Confucius Institutes. China has also become the biggest donor of foreign scholarships, enabling future African leaders to study in China.

Graduates enrich African universities and, interacting with graduates of US institutions of higher education, represent potential channels to explore options for three way, useful collaboration in their fields of applied research.

Looking Forward

This essay reflects my belief in the value and prospects for greater African agency in response to rising tensions between China and America. I have used China’s indictment of alleged US hegemony only to debunk fear of Africa becoming a pawn in another Cold War.

There is no evidence I have seen to suggest that will happen.

* John J Stremlau, Honorary Professor of International Relations, University of the Witwatersrand

Côte d’Ivoire’s fashion week showcases 30 African designers

Afrik Fashion Week in Côte d’Ivoire   –   Copyright © africanews

By Rédaction Africanews

It was all glitz and glamour at the 16th annual Afrik Fashion Week which took place this week in Côte d’Ivoire’s commercial capital, Abidjan.

The major fashion event brought together 30 designers and 60 models from several African countries, around the theme “Youth, Fashion and Cultural Diversity”.

“We think that Africa and even Côte d’Ivoire deserve to host a fashion week and for this edition, we tried to put our best foot forward by inviting African designers to share the stage with local designers,” said Isabelle Anoh, the event’s organiser.

And it wasn’t just about clothing. Handbags, jewellery, shoes – there was plenty to be seen and enjoyed by all.

For fashion designer, Nancy, the event was also an opportunity for someone like herself, who wants to enter the fashion world, to learn and gain a little more visibility.

“Through the fashion shows we see what others create and through that we get inspiration. And for us also to exchange with other stylists and other designers and of course to make ourselves known,” she said.

The event was widely seen as a wonderful opportunity to network with others in the industry from across the continent.

“It’s an opportunity for me to meet several designers, to get to know different models and creators. And also, participating in this event has been a great joy for me and it allows me to value my work,” said make-up artist, Julianna Gnépa.

Afrik Fashion Week was a stunning showcase for a celebration of the diversity of styles and materials of African fashion.

Transforming African Economies through Pan-Africanization

Ruth Lago, host of Business Africa

By Rédaction Africanews and Ruth Lago

How to strengthen intra-African trade, which only accounts for 17% of trade on the continent? The AU advocates a pan-Africanization of the economic system.

The 5th UN Conference on Least Developed Countries in Doha, Qatar, emphasized the key role of financing for SMEs.

In sub-Saharan Africa, women produce up to 70% of food for consumption and sale. However, agriculture remains a low value-added activity.

Strengthening trade within Africa

Economists are unanimous: Africa’s success on world markets depends on intensified regional integration. However, a disturbing observation is that intra-African trade only represents 17% of exchanges against 73% with European countries and 52% with Asian countries.

To facilitate trade, the Afcfta secretary and Rwanda recently signed an agreement for Kigali to headquarter the $10 billion adjustment fund for the free trade zone.

Gérard Amoi Amangoua, managing Director of the consulting firm NAG in Côte d’Ivoire gives his insight to Africanews.

SMEs under the spotlight at a summit in Doha

Access to finance is one of the obstacles the private sector as well as small and medium-sized enterprises face in the least developed countries. Investors fear the risks associated with financing this sector. In Doha, solutions were proposed to encourage support for SMEs.

Women at the heart of the economic system

While they represent 70% of the working population in the agricultural sector, women are mainly at the bottom of the ladder in this field. According to the UNDP, gender inequalities generate an average of 95 billion dollars a year in lost earnings in sub-Saharan Africa.

Angolan president holds security talks with his DRC counterpart

DRC President Felix Tshisekedi and his Angola counterpart Joao Lourenco   –   Copyright © africanews

By Rédaction Africanews with AFP

Angolan President Joao Lourenco held a three-hour private meeting in Luanda on Saturday with his Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) counterpart, Felix Tshisekedi.

The talks came a day after the Angolan parliament approved a year-long deployment of up to 500 soldiers to the troubled eastern DRC.

But Luanda said the contingent would only be moved when it was certain that the right conditions existed in the cantonment areas.

“Today, a delegation of the ad hoc mechanism, which includes military officers, is visiting these areas to confirm that all is in order,” said Francisco Furtado, Minister of State and head of military in the Angolan presidency.

The troops will help to maintain peace in areas held by the M23 rebel group. The militia resumed fighting at the end of 2021 and have conquered large swathes of territory in the DRC’s North Kivu province.

Angola’s president played a key mediation role in trying to end the conflict, but the latest ceasefire he negotiated collapsed earlier this month on the same day it was due to take effect.

“It is still a concern of the DRC government that we need to see an engagement of all parties, on the part of the government of the DRC, on the part of Rwanda, and also on the part of M23 in terms of compliance with the cessation of hostilities,” said Furtado.

The DRC has accused Rwanda of backing the mostly Congolese Tutsi group, a charge that Kigali denies.

Burna Boy to perform at UEFA Champions League final in Istanbul

Burna Boy performs at State Farm Arena on Sunday, July 31, 2022, in Atlanta.   –   Copyright © africanews
Paul R. Giunta/2022 Invision

By Kwabena Adu Gyamfi

GRAMMY Award-winning and multi-platinum-selling singer, songwriter, and producer, Burna Boy, will co-headline the highly anticipated 2023 UEFA Champions League Final Kick-Off Show in Istanbul, Turkey.

The global chart-topping ‘Last Last’ and ‘It’s Plenty’ megastar will bring his signature soulful vibes of afrobeat’s to Istanbul’s Atatürk Olympic Stadium on June 10.

Fans from across the globe tune in to watch the must-see performance only moments before the biggest game in club football gets underway.

The news was announced on the Twitter page of the UEFA Champions League, accompanied by a video from Burna Boy.

“Hello everyone, this is Burna Boy and I’ve got some big news,” the Grammy Award winner said in the video.

“I’ll be performing at the UEFA Champions League final kick-off show by Pepsi. Come on, let’s go!”

The Champions League is currently in the quarter-final stage, with eight teams set to compete for the right to be called European champions.

These are AC Milan, Inter Milan, Napoli, Manchester City, Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Benfica, and defending champions Real Madrid.

Meanwhile, Burna Boy recently delivered an impressive performance during the 2023 NBA All-Star halftime show in February.

He, together with fellow Nigerian singers Tems and Rema, thrilled the audience with their hit tracks, further selling African music to the world and basketball fans.

Team Lebron lost 175-184 to Team Giannis during the entertaining encounter that featured a number of African players, with the night capped off by great African music.

Infantino re-elected FIFA president until 2027

FIFA President Gianni Infantino (2nd L) is congratulated by delegates following his re-election during the 73rd FIFA Congress in Kigali, Rwanda, on March 16, 2023.   –   Copyright © africanews
SIMON MAINA/AFP or licensors

By Afolake Oyinloye and Agencies

FIFA president Gianni Infantino was re-elected to lead a richer-than-ever soccer body with an ambition to add new and bigger competitions despite growing wariness of him in Europe.

FIFA’s wealth after the World Cup in Qatar – $4 billion in reserves to be shared among the 211 member federations and lots more to come from the expanded 104-game edition in 2026 in North America – is a big reason why Infantino has no opponent on Thursday in Rwanda for four more years in office.

“All those who love me, that I know there are so many. And those who hate me, I know there are a few. I love you all. Of course, today especially,” said Infantino.

The 52-year-old, who was re-elected by delegates from the 211 member federations in 2019, could remain at the helm of world football until 2031 as his first three-year tenure is considered incomplete.

The Valaisan can boast a solid financial record, with an 18% increase in income and 45% increase in reserves over the 2019-22 cycle compared to the previous one, which has allowed Fifa to further increase its subsidies to confederations and federations.

In terms of governance, his last mandate was marked by a vast reform of transfers, the introduction of maternity leave for professional women players and more protective rules of disciplinary procedure for victims of sexual violence.

The main projects for the next few years have already been approved, starting with the expansion of the men’s World Cup from 32 to 48 teams from the 2026 edition, shared between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Here are the top 500 companies in Africa

By Rédaction Africanews with Young Africa

After analyzing the results of more than 1,200 companies, Jeune Afrique unveils its exclusive ranking of the 500 most important companies in Africa.

Hit by the Covid pandemic and then by the repercussions of the war in Ukraine, companies on the continent have to deal with an ever-uncertain business environment, synonymous with both pitfalls and opportunities. In fact, some players have succeeded in getting out of the game thanks in particular to the innovation strategies deployed to adapt to the multiplication of exogenous shocks.

Jeune Afrique draws up a ranking, of the 500 companies on the continent that have best-taken advantage of opportunities in the 2021 financial year. A ranking that reaches the third-highest level of overall turnover since the launch of this type of investigation.


The resilience of companies in the face of Covid-19 and the turbulence that has hit the continent since 2015 (oil crash, raw materials, etc.) is therefore real. In essence, these good results are driven in particular by companies in the mining and hydrocarbons sector.

The Algerian company Sonatrach dominates this ranking with a turnover reaching 34 billion dollars and a net result of more than 5.5 billion dollars. The Algerian giant sees its export activity in dollars increase by 75%.

The Angolan oil company Sonangol (12th), despite a drop in production of around 10% in 2021, is back in favor with the Top 15 and gains eight places, boosted by rising prices.

The continent’s GDP has surged

On the countryside, South Africa dominates the ranking with eight companies present in the Top 10 and nearly 50% of the revenues of the Top 500. But this trend tends to decrease year after year. Behind South Africa, Egyptian, Nigerian, Moroccan, and Algerian companies share between 6.5% and 9% of total revenues.

Four new entrants are positioned in the Top 100. They are Airtel Africa (Nigeria), ENI Angola (Angola), Société Marocaine de Distribution (Morocco) and Sodiam (Angola).

In terms of growth, according to the African Development Bank (AfDB), after a fall of 2.1% in 2020, the continent’s GDP jumped 2021, by 4.8%, including 4.5% for Sub-Saharan Africa.

Positive growth

Apart from South Sudan and Equatorial Guinea, all countries on the continent had positive growth in 2021, some even posting rates among the best in the world, such as Rwanda ( + 10.9%), Morocco (+ 7 .9%), Côte d’Ivoire (+ 7.4%), Kenya (+ 7.5%) or the DRC (+ 6.2%).

The continent’s three largest economies saw more subdued levels, at 3.6% for Nigeria, 3.3% for Egypt, and 4.9% for South Africa.

These 2021 performances erase the successive crises of the middle of the 2010 decade. and to a lesser extent South Africa.

Retail sales in South Africa continue downward trend

Retail sales fell in January in South Africa   –   Copyright © africanews
Denis Farrell/AP

By Africanews

According to figures released this Wednesday by Statistics South Africa, retail sales in the country fell 0.8% year on year in January after falling by a revised 0.5% in December.

On a month-on-month basis, sales increased 1.5%.

The numbers are relevant as they offer an insight into consumer demand in Africa’s most industrialised economy

Sales in the three months to the end of January were down 0.2% compared with the same period last year, the statistics agency said

South Africa’s economic growth outlook is bleak this year, with crippling power cuts seen hurting businesses of all sizes and keeping inflation high.

Africa facing Chinese and Russian influence

Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang and AUC President Moussa Faki Mahamat at the…   –   Copyright © africanews
Stringer/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.

By Rédaction Africanews

By multiplying the heavy infrastructure projects in Africa, China, and Russia aim to establish their influence in the countries of the continent, which risk their part to find themselves “trapped”, warn experts.

Railway lines, and civil infrastructure: China is multiplying gigantic projects in cooperation with African states, of which it is becoming one of the main donors.

“One in three major infrastructure projects in Africa is built by Chinese state-owned companies, one in five is financed by a Chinese institutional bank,” says Paul Nantulya, of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, who report of the US Department of Defense.

Beijing is taking advantage of the void left by the withdrawal of Western countries, which are more hesitant to finance these projects. “The Chinese saw this void and decided to invest in infrastructure,” remarks Mr. Nantulya.

But at what cost? Anna Borshchevskaya , of the Washington Institute, think tank, points to a “debt trap” for African countries. “China offers loans for expensive infrastructure projects” and “when a country cannot repay its loan, China takes control of its strategic assets,” she says.

During her visit to Senegal in January, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called on African countries to _”be careful about tempting deals.”_These can “be opaque and ultimately fail to help the people they were meant to help,” she said, referring to deals China has made in Africa.

Many of the poorest states are heading towards over-indebtedness, or even default, UN agencies said at the conference of least developed countries organized by the United Nations in Qatar in early March.

“China should be the last to be accused (of using) the debt trap,” Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang retorted on March 7 at a press conference. “China has worked hard to help troubled countries and is the main contributor to the G20 debt service suspension initiative,” he added.

In Kenya, one of the gigantic projects carried out by China is the railway line linking the city of Mombasa to the Rift Valley, at a cost of five billion dollars, 90% financed by Beijing. China is Kenya’s second-largest donor, after the World Bank.

Tanzania has signed a $2.2 billion contract with a Chinese company for a rail line linking the country’s main port to its neighbors.

While some projects turn out to be profitable, the real benefit so far lies with Beijing, with maintenance contracts that can last up to 99 years, according to Mr Nantulya, who adds that the local impact is low because the employees are overwhelmingly Chinese.

The expert also recalls that the debt crisis of the 1990s in Africa was caused by the West and not by China or Russia.

The main country exporting arms to Africa, Russia, for its part, is strengthening its presence on the continent thanks in particular to mining projects granted to the private paramilitary group Wagner, suspected of abuses in Moscow’s war against Ukraine.

In January, the United States accused Wagner of “widespread human rights violations and natural resource extortion” in Africa. Accusations reiterated by the European Union, which took sanctions against the group in February.

Mr Nantulya notes that the group operates in Mali, Sudan, and the Central African Republic, but not “in democratic environments”, citing Ghana, Namibia, and Senegal. Experts have also denounced the environmental impact of Chinese and Russian projects on the continent.

Both countries are “notorious for greater negligence when carrying out their projects, compared to their Western counterparts” , underlines Ms. Borshchevskaya. “China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases” and finances “coal power plants abroad”, she adds.

And “Russia’s mining projects … have reportedly resulted in high levels of toxic metal compounds, pollution of groundwater resources, soils and vegetation.”

In Liberia, these impacts are “serious”, points out Davestus James, of the Liberia Center for Peacebuilding and Democracy. “Citizens are victims of their own resources,” he says. “The erosion caused by the mines pollutes drinking water (…), the resources are also monopolized and exported to the detriment of the citizens.”

Top Ethiopian officials host U. S. Secretary of State

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, second left, meets Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Mar. 15, 2023.

By Rédaction Africanews and AP

Ethiopia’s Deputy PM and Foreign Minister hosted Wednesday (Mar.15) the U.S. Secretary of State. Antony Blinken.

The US top diplomat who’s set to visit 2 countries on the continent; will first meet with Ethiopian federal officials and Tigrayan representatives in Addis Ababa.

He’ll discuss the implementation of the peace deal that ended the war in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region as well as humanitarian support.

The conflict led the U.S. to suspend some preferential trade agreements with Ethiopia, which could also be on the agenda. 

At the start of the meeting Blinken said “It’s very, very good to be back in Africa, especially to be in Ethiopia at I think a very important moment, a moment of hope given the peace in the north that is taking hold and that continues to move forward […]”

According to the U. S. department of state press statement, Blinken “will also meet humanitarian partners and civil society actors to discuss humanitarian assistance delivery, food security, and human rights.”

While there, Blinken will also meet with the African Union Commission Chairperson.

In the first ever visit to Niger by a U.S. Secretary of State, on March 16, Secretary Blinken will meet President Mohamed Bazoum and Foreign Minister Hassoumi Massaoudou in Niamey.