Five Reasons Why the United States Can’t Beat China in Africa

August 17, 2014 Topic: Foreign Policy Region: AfricaUnited StatesChina

Five Reasons Why the United States Can’t Beat China in Africa

Global interest in Africa is spiking. China has invested much time and treasure in the rising continent—placing America at a big disadvantage.


Besides the Middle East and Europe, any remaining energy and resources the United States can devote to far-sighted planning will go to the Asia-Pacific. In other words, the United States will be severely constrained in the amount of attention it can expend on Africa. This small amount is likely to be wholly consumed with counterterrorism and humanitarian interventions. Exploiting Africa’s burgeoning economic opportunities will continue to take a backseat.

In sum, the U.S.-Africa Leaders summit notwithstanding, the United States cannot compete with China in Africa. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to. The Sino-American rivalry will not be decided in Africa, and the region is one place where the two countries’ interests are not zero-sum. Instead of competing with China in Africa, the United States should seek to exploit as many opportunities as it can, while asking Beijing to do the heavy lifting in the region commensurate with its greater interests and influence.


Zachary Keck is the Managing Editor of The Diplomat, where he authors the Pacific Realist blog. He can be found on Twitter: @ZacharyKeck.

Image: Flickr/US Army Africa/CC by 2.0