China’s ‘Belt & Road’ Trading Strategy Presents New Challenge to U.S. Influence in Africa

The implementation of China’s ambitious “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) trade agenda in Africa is now fully underway. The launch of the Standard Gauge Railway in Kenya, the opening of the new navy base in Djibouti and dozens of other major infrastructure development projects along Africa’s eastern shore are all part of this new ambitious strategy.

OBOR’s roll-out in Africa comes at an important time in global geopolitics, just as the United States appears to be in an all-out retreat from Africa as the government in Washington, D.C. is consumed by infighting and a lack of strategic focus. But just because the U.S. government may not be as active in Africa, doesn’t necessarily that American corporations are not eager to take in OBOR-related investments. “Chinese banks and firms have requested the help of their U.S. counterparts to navigate existing norms in Africa, creating new potential opportunities for collaboration,” noted Janet Eom, a former research associate at the China-Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University, in a recent Washington Post column.

Eom argues that there are a number of sectors, ranging from finance to manufacturing to civil society/NGOs, where the Chinese could benefit from working with American organizations in Africa. In this edition of the podcast, she joins Eric to explain why she is seemingly more optimistic about a role for U.S. firms in OBOR than many other analysts.

Join the discussion. Do you think the Chinese will want, or need, U.S. participation in OBOR-related activities in Africa? Let us know what you think.

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Twitter: @eolander | @stadenesque | @janeteom