US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday cautioned Africa to beware of China’s growing role as he vowed a greater US commitment in talks with Nigeria and Kenya.
In what was billed as a virtual trip due to Covid-19 restrictions, the top US diplomat was holding talks with the two nations’ leaders and “touring” sites including a US-funded mobile hospital and renewable energy project.
Responding to questions from young Africans who have studied in the United States, Blinken said he hoped that African nations approach all their relationships “with your eyes wide open.”
“We’re not asking anyone to choose between the United States or China, but I would encourage you to ask those tough questions, to dig beneath the surface, to demand transparency and to make informed choices about what is best for you and your countries,” Blinken said.
The United States has increasingly had a competitive relationship with China, which has ramped up investment in Africa with a focus on natural resources and without any of the Western pretences of advancing democratic values.
Blinken pointed to concerns that a number of nations have been saddled with unsustainable debts after taking Chinese loans, with Zambia last year defaulting.
“You should be looking hard at whether when other countries come in to build a big infrastructure project, are they bringing their own workers with them or are they giving jobs to people in the country where they’re making investments?” Blinken asked.
‘US believes in Africa’
On the part of the United States, “We believe in Africa. We believe in the extraordinary potential.”
“Your success is our success, and we want to invest in it but in the right way.”