Africa has long been a pawn in the power play between the West and other global powers - from colonialism to post-colonial aid and trade relations.
With abundant natural resources and a fast-growing youthful population, the continent offers a potentially lucrative market for foreign investors. In recent years, China has emerged as a major player on the continent, complicating the power dynamics and leaving Africa caught up in the middle of a game of geopolitics.
The West has long viewed Africa as a strategic region, seeking to maintain its influence in Africa for political and economic reasons. With the end of the Cold War, the West shifted its focus to economic engagement with Africa, viewing Africa’s natural resources as an opportunity to fuel its own economic growth.
However, this economic engagement has often come at a cost to Africa, with Western companies accused of exploiting Africa’s resources and Western aid tied to political conditions that benefit Western interests.
On the other hand, China’s engagement with Africa has often been touted as a win-win for both China and Africa, with China providing much-needed investment and Africa providing China with natural resources. China’s approach has taken many forms, including loans for infrastructure projects, investment in natural resources, and the establishment of special economic zones. However, China’s approach has been criticised for its lack of transparency, disregard for human rights, and support for authoritarian regimes.
The West’s engagement with Africa is not without flaws either. Western nations have a long history of meddling in African politics, supporting dictators, and overthrowing democratically elected governments that do not align with their interests. Western nations often attach conditions to their aid and loans, which can undermine local institutions and fuel corruption
In contrast, China’s no-strings-attached approach has been attractive to many African governments, who see it as a way to secure much-needed funding and investment without having to make political concessions. However, this approach has also raised concerns about debt sustainability and the long-term impact of Chinese investment on African economies.
African nations must reject the notion that Africa is a passive recipient of aid and investment and. instead, take an active role in shaping its own destiny. African nations must prioritise their own development goals, rather than being swayed by the agendas of external actors.
Africans must hold their own governments accountable for the decisions they make in their engagement with foreign powers. By taking a strategic approach to engagement, African nations can ensure that they are not merely pawns in a larger game but are active partners in shaping their own future.
Mr Mureithi is The Standard’s production editor. [email protected]