The United States "obviously lacks a consistent Africa policy" and sees China as a rival for influence and economic opportunities "instead of another constructive power to bring welfare to the land," opinion reporter Liu Zhun wrote in an op-ed published Monday in the English-language Global Times.
"The U.S. used to be a dominant power in Africa," Liu wrote. Saying trade volume between the two has fallen, he concluded that "a change of position has touched the nerves of the U.S."
The official Xinhua News Agency likewise blasted U.S. outreach and boasted of its own projects, according to The Associated Press. "Despite fanfare, U.S. aid programs for Africa fail to make a big difference," the agency's headline read over a Web story noting Obama’s unveiling of a $1 billion program to aid global entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa.
The United States’ $7 billion Power Africa project to provide 50 million Africans with electricity had made little progress since its unveiling in June 2013, Xinhua reported Monday, citing an earlier article in Les Echos in France.
But a senior White House official said that the United States is building on "decades of development relationships" in Africa, where it has supported public health, food security and, especially now, the empowerment of Africans to create their own growth, their own job creation."
Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, said at a news conference Sunday that China has "played a constructive role" in Africa in areas such as developing infrastructure.
As for the United States' relationship with Africa, he said, "We're not just in it for a set of natural resources; we're here to build African capacity. And that type of partnership over the long run I think does distinguish the United States. It's something that we bring uniquely to bear."
China, Africa’s largest trading partner, has had ties to the continent dating back centuries and has been aggressively working to fortify them in recent years.
The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, which first met in Beijing in 2000, now counts 50 of Africa’s 54 countries among its members. Its sixth meeting is scheduled for December in South Africa.
The Asian powerhouse has doubled its financing commitments to Africa at each of the last three forum meetings and it’s expected to bolster them with "another impressive line of credit," according to a report from the Africa Growth Initiative, a project of the Brookings Institution in Washington. China's commitments rose from $5 billion in 2006 to $10 billion in 2009 and $20 billion in 2012. It extended its credit line to Africa by another $10 billion last year.
Just a month ago, the World Bank, the China Development Bank and entities such as the United National Industrial Development Organization staged a two-day forum in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, on accelerating “responsible” investment and partnerships in the continent. Light manufacturing was cited as a particular focus, “given the availability of local resources and relatively low labor costs,” a World Bank website said.
The forum’s website highlights diplomatic and academic exchanges, as well as projects such as the Chinese-financed Lamu port being built in Kenya. The $24 billion project, due for completion in 2030, "is expected to be Kenya’s second transport corridor, boosting the economic development and regional integration in the East African region and beyond," the site said.
The Obama administration organized a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington last August to strengthen international ties, too. It brought together some 50 African heads of state for three days of forums on security, health, the environment and corruption. Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry all addressed the participants.
During the summit, the United States announced nearly $1 billion in business deals, more funding for peacekeeping, and billions of dollars for food and power programs.
The summit was criticized by some media outlets as an attempt to counter the influence of the Chinese-American forums. (Europe and Japan have engaged in similar efforts with African leaders in government and business.)
Offsetting influence was a factor, but less important than the United States’ recognition that it "has paid insufficient attention to the [African] continent at the highest levels of government in recent years," according to David Shinn, co-author of "China and Africa: A Century of Engagement."
Shinn, a former U.S. ambassador to Burkina Faso and Ethiopia and an adjunct professor at the George Washington University, attributed the burgeoning U.S. interest to three developments: a stabilizing U.S. domestic economy, Africa’s growing economy and opportunities for U.S. partnerships and private investment, and the increasing security threats that extremists pose in Africa and at home.
He made those observations in China-U.S. Focus Digest last fall.
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia -- Three Ethiopian journalists were released from prison three weeks ago, ahead of President Obama's visit to the African nation. They are just some of victims who dared to criticize their government and went to prison for it.
Now, the three are speaking about that repression and one is willing to risk everything to have her voice heard, reports CBS News chief White House correspondent Major Garrett.
"I was in prison for four years and 17 days," Reeyot Alemu said.
"For one year, two months and 14 days," Zelalem Kibret said.
"One year, two months and 15 days," Edom Kassaye said.
Obama Takes on Entrenched African Power Structures in Speech
By PETER BAKERJULY 28, 2015
The New York Times
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — President Obama confronted the power structures of Africa on Tuesday and called for long-entrenched leaders to step down, using his stature as the first American president with African roots to try to reshape the continent’s politics.
As he wrapped up what may be his final trip to Africa while in office, Mr. Obama took on one of the region’s most enduring obstacles to democratic progress: its history of one-man rule by presidents and potentates who enrich themselves and hang onto power for years, if not decades, in calcified regimes.
“Nobody should be president for life,” Mr. Obama declared in a speech at the African Union, the continent’s umbrella organization. “Your country is better off if you have new blood and new ideas. I’m still a pretty young man, but I know that somebody with new energy and new insights will be good for my country. It will be good for yours, too, in some cases.”
Just 18 months from mandatory retirement under the Constitution’s two-term limit, Mr. Obama used himself as a model for giving up power. “I actually think I’m a pretty good president,” he said, departing from his prepared text. “I think if I ran, I could win.”
“There’s a lot that I’d like to do to keep America moving,” he added. “But the law is the law and no person is above the law, not even the president.”
The comments reflect a bitter issue in Africa: the attempts by some leaders to hold onto power well after their terms expire. Just this month, the president of Burundi pushed ahead with elections that gave him a third term in office, throwing his nation into upheaval in a move widely regarded as violating the country’s Constitution and the peace agreement that ended a devastating civil war there.
It is a theme that Mr. Obama struck forcefully during his visit to Ghana in 2009, when he declared that “Africa doesn’t need strongmen. It needs strong institutions.” Since then, the debate over inveterate rulers has continued to reverberate across the continent, with startlingly different outcomes.
The government of Burkina Faso collapsed last fall when protesters surged through the streets, denouncing President Blaise Compaoré’s plans to extend his 27-year rule. In Rwanda, lawmakers voted this month to support a constitutional change allowing President Paul Kagame a third term. And in the Democratic Republic of Congo, there are concerns that President Joseph Kabila will try to circumvent the two-term limit outlined in the Constitution by delaying the 2016 presidential elections.
Indeed, about half of the more than 50 countries in the African Union have presidents, prime ministers or monarchs who have been in power longer than Mr. Obama, some of them for decades. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has ruled Equatorial Guinea since 1979. Robert Mugabe has been in power in Zimbabwe since 1980. Paul Biya has governed Cameroon since 1982. Yoweri Museveni has governed Uganda since 1986. Omar Hassan al-Bashir has governed Sudan since 1989.
On the other hand, there have been transformative moments lately. In Nigeria, the continent’s most populous nation, Africans celebrated in the spring when the party that had governed since the end of military rule peacefully stepped down after losing elections, a successful transfer of power in one of the world’s largest democracies. Unable to travel to Nigeria because of security concerns, Mr. Obama decided to mark that transition by hosting the new Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, in the Oval Office last week before departing for his trip here.
None of the long-ruling leaders Mr. Obama seemed to have in mind were on hand to hear his speech in person on Tuesday, but representatives of governments from around Africa attended, and it was broadcast live across the continent. The audience interrupted Mr. Obama with applause nearly 75 times, but it cheered and whooped the most enthusiastically when he talked about leaders who overstay their welcome.
“When a leader tries to change the rules in the middle of the game just to stay in office, it risks instability and strife, as we’ve seen in Burundi,” Mr. Obama said. “And this is often just a first step down a perilous path. And sometimes you’ll hear leaders say, ‘Well, I’m the only person who can hold the nation together.’ If that’s true, then that leader has failed to truly build their nation.”
The crowd cheered even louder when he said that he did not understand why leaders do not step down “especially when they’ve got a lot of money,” again going beyond his prepared text in a knowing reference to African officials who have accumulated great fortunes while in office, often through corruption.
Joseph Atta-Mensah, a Ghanaian who is a policy adviser at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, said Mr. Obama’s message was critically important. “One of the most important things was, in terms of good governance and institutions, the need for people to leave when their term is up,” he said. “They should leave and allow for new blood. I think that was good.”
Still, some analysts were skeptical about the potential impact of Mr. Obama’s remarks.
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