This article is predicated on the argument that the African continent has become a focus of geopolitical and economic attention, especially as a locus of Sino-American rivalry and to some extent cooperation. Accordingly, Sino-American presence in Africa has resulted in: (i) the militarization and securitization of Africa impelled by the war on terrorism and the need to protect vested political and economic interests; (ii) the continent becoming a theater for the interplay of differences between American and Chinese militarization and securitization; and (iii) the inevitable and rare cases of military and security cooperation between the two powers on the continent. The article probes how and why the two powers have militarized and securitized the continent, the activities that constitute militarization and securitization, and prospects for further militarization and securitization in the context of both rivalry and minimal cooperation.
Africa has often been the focus of contradictory attention that has oscillated between the labels of a physical obstacle to travel between Europe and the East, a geostrategic continent, a collection of failed or failing states, to now a geo-economically important continent with potentially viable markets because of its many and rapidly growing economies endowed with strategic minerals. With the dawn of the 21st century and the reality of strategic rivalry between the United States and China, coupled with the global involvement of middle and emerging powers in particular Russia, Japan, Turkey, Iran, and India many issues are coming to the fore. Africa is now experiencing a new “scramble” for its strategic minerals, the buying power of its growing middle class, its significant choke points, its diplomatic importance and growing influence in international organizations, among others.
This commentary underscores the strategic rivalry taking place in Africa between the United States and China, sparked by the latter’s massive political, economic, and socio-cultural engagement with the continent. It argues that the reasons for the ongoing rivalry between the two is related to their clashing worldviews, and their focus on accessing Africa’s energy/oil and other strategic natural resources. The strategies both global superpowers are utilizing have the effect of diluting each other’s influence on the continent. Their rivalry has progressed from mild, to moderate, to intense, with both powers increasing their activities on the continent and decreasing Africa’s erstwhile marginalization.