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The United States and China: Strategic Rivalry in Africa

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.

The United States and China Strategic Rivalry in Africa

Rivalry between the world’s two most powerful economic entities has become a reality in Africa underlined largely by the two giants’ clashing worldviews. China’s extensive economic investments, intense political and cultural interactions, and ongoing peacekeeping and peace building activities in Africa have sparked insecurity for the U.S., while the U.S., still considered the world’s hegemon, has naturally always had a “Missionary Complex” and is therefore trying to contain China’s ongoing expansive and pervasive engagement in Africa.1 One positive outcome, at least for Africa, is that the U.S.-China rivalry has diminished to some extent the marginalization that the continent had suffered, especially during the immediate post-Cold War era of the early 1990s. The focus of this analysis is to examine U.S.-China rivalry in Africa by analyzing: (i) the differences in worldview between the two nations; (ii) their competition for energy sources in Africa; and (iii) the strategies utilized by both powers in their rivalry on the continent.

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