Why America has keen interest in Africa

Africa over the decade have undergone major transformation. The Economist in March 2013 referred to Africa as the “Hopeful Continent” and in 2011 as the “Rising Continent”. These positive reports is due to Africa’s fast growing economies driven by a vibrant private sector, a welcoming business environment, governance and economic management. Africa is increasingly becoming important to the rest of the world, due to the changes that have been effected. Newly economically emerged like China, Iran and Brazil are all investing in Africa either commercially or diplomatically. The sudden interest in Africa is the world’s realization that Africa has much more to offer. America has keen interest in Africa.

The security of Africa is linked to global security. From transnational organized crime, piracy and violent extremist like BokoHaram, al-Shabaab and Ansar Dine threaten human security and ignite communal violence. Ansar al-Sharia’s September 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and al Qaeda bombings of US Consulate in Tanzania and Kenya pose a threat to security of the US and its citizens (Shwayder, 2012). The US national security is linked to Africa and since Africa is incapable of maintaining control over it lands the US is keen to ensuring security in Africa so they are not faced with the repelling effects of poor security in the continent (Washington, 2013)

.Image cc: stocklongs.com

China over the years have increasingly become a global player of economic development, politics and security in Africa  and its pursuit is to fuel its domestic economic growth with Africa’s rich natural resources. China’s funding approach based on string attached like human rights, transparency and environmental protection repeals US interest in promoting good governance and democracy in Africa. There is strength in numbers, and China’s presence in Africa has profound geopolitical implications for the US global strategy. With numbers the United States would have political and strategic influence on the globe (Banks, et al., 2013).Image

cc: The in sight newspaper

Today, Africa has the most arable land in the world and it’s positioned to become the World’s largest producer of food. To continuously feed its people America needs Africa to produce food for them. Six of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies (according to data from the International Monetary Fund for 2001-2010) are in sub-Saharan Africa, and a middle class of nearly 350 million individuals, rivalling that of China and India, has emerged across the continent. Moreover, according to the McKinsey Global Institute, by 2020 Africa’s consumers—in areas such as financial services, tourism, telecommunications and retail— are projected to contribute more than five times as much revenue to the region’s economic growth as the natural resource sector. (IMF, 2010)

Considering the fact that most countries of Sub-Saharan Africa have energy challenges, a great opportunity is created for the U.S. For instance, the International Energy Agency estimated in 2011 that there are 590 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, mostly in the rural areas, who do not have access to electricity. Also, 700 million people were also stated to rely on traditional, non-commercial sources of energy such as biomass for cooking and other activities. In addition, sub-Saharan African countries (with the exception of a few oil producing countries) do not have large domestic energy resources. They therefore import over 65% of the total energy required for various activities.

These problems have been of great interest to the U.S in various aspects. First of all, they are able to satisfy their humanitarian interest by expanding the energy access for hundreds of millions of people in the region. This to them, would lift people out of energy poverty through expansion of economic opportunities as well as creating noble living conditions within the region Secondly, they are able to satisfy their national security interests by trying to solve this problem. Energy poverty is considered one of the major causes of political instability by weakening economic development. To explain further, a joint effort of the Fund for peace and Foreign Policy magazine – the Failed States Index indicates that 15 of the world’s most vulnerable states are in the sub-Saharan Africa, many with electrification rates below 20%.

 This could lead to inadequate job for young people, sowing growing dissatisfaction. The emergence of new oil and gas producers in the region presents potential benefits for U.S. national security interests, if this new-found wealth is managed appropriately. Oil and gas resources not only can provide energy and revenues for local use, but also can help stabilize oil and gas prices by diversifying and enhancing available supplies for regional and global markets. Several countries could also potentially become oil suppliers to the U.S., further diversifying the sources of U.S. imported oil. (Oil and Gas Markets, 2011)

 Also, the energy trends within the sub-Saharan countries offer trade and investment. Opportunities for the U.S. businesses. For instance, in the area of expanding electricity access, there is a large potential market for off-grid and mini-grid decentralized Power solutions, especially in rural sub-Saharan Africa where electrification rates are well below the global average. Energy needs to play a more prominent role in U.S. policy toward sub-Saharan Africa. (World Energy Outlook, 2012)

 This enhanced role could be achieved by utilizing and leveraging existing programs and institutions to incorporate more sub-Saharan African countries, and expanding financial resources available to target the energy sector. For instance, The U.S have the chance to operationalize a greater sub-Saharan focus within the department of State’s newly formed Bureau of Energy Resources, created to address three strategic pillars of energy strategy: energy diplomacy, energy transformation and energy poverty.

They can also Support and promote U.S. energy investment, trade and technology and knowledge transfer in the region with a focus on renewable technologies for mini-grid and off-grid solutions, and sustainable oil and gas development, utilizing institutions and programs such as: (a) Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves; (b) Department of State’s Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program; (c) U.S. Trade and Development Agency; (d) U.S. Export-Import Bank, etc. (World Energy Outlook, 2012)

As Senator Coons writes, “Now is the time to invest in economic engagement with Africa.” This implies that the U.S. can’t afford to ignore investment and trade with Africa now that countries like China and India are increasingly investing in African countries. From security, trade and the geopolitical implication of strength in numbers America can’t do without Africa. (Coons, 2013)

Bibliography

Banks, J. P., Ingram, G., Kimenyi, M., Rocker, S., Schneidman, W., Sun, Y., & Warner, L. A. (2013, March). Top Five Reasons Why Africa Should Be a Priority for the United States. Washington: Africa Growth Initiative.

Oil and Gas Markets 2011, International Energy Agency, 240

Shwayder, M. (2012, September 11). US Embassy Attacks And Bombings: A Recent History. Retrieved from International Business Times : http://www.ibtimes.com/us-embassy-attacks-and-bombings-recent-history-782665

Washington, G. (2013, December 1). The War On Terror Spreads to Africa: U.S. Sending Troops to 35 African Nations. Retrieved from Zero Hedge: http://www.zerohedge.com/contributed/2013-01-12/war-terror-spreads-africa-us-sending-troops-35-african-nations

World Energy Outlook 2012, International Energy Agency, 532

Post By

Maxwell Kwabena Asare, Ambassador of Eritrea

&

Benjamin Senam Dotse, Ambassador of Liberia

 

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