The race for Africa is heating up, and the United States is playing catch-up to other world powers vying for a piece of the continent. But is this a good thing for Africa, a continent of 1.4 billion people and its over 200 million descendants living all over the world?
The growing interest in Africa in recent times has been fueled by global power rivalry, especially between the US, Russia, and China, and a number of other factors including the continent’s young and growing population, its natural resources, and its increasing economic stability.
According to UNCTAD’s World Investment Report 2022, Africa received a record $83 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2021, a significant increase from the $55 billion received in 2019. China is the biggest provider of FDI, and its investment in Africa is larger than that of the United States, supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs. In 2021, China’s trade with Africa reached $254 billion, which is four times the trade between the United States and Africa. Additionally, European investors hold the largest foreign assets in Africa, with the UK and France at the forefront, while China dominates partnerships with countries such as South Africa and Kenya.
Whilst global powers, including Russia, race for Africa, the United States’ Black America (African diaspora and African Americans) have a unique advantage.
Black America, especially the African diaspora are well-positioned to take advantage of this investment boom. The diaspora is a large and growing community of people of African descent who live outside of Africa. They have the skills, experience, and networks to help promote economic development and democracy in Africa. The Biden-Harris administration has made it clear that it is committed to working with Africa and the African diaspora to support the continent’s and its people’s development. In March 2022, Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Ghana, Zambia, and Tanzania to promote US-Africa relations, emphasizing and making true of its commitment to increase investments, economic empowerment, and strengthening democracy and government to African leaders.
Celebrities like Stevie Wonder, Dave Chappelle, Akon, Ludacris, and Pharrell Williams are just a few examples of Black Americans who are engaging with, investing in, or considering moving to the African continent.
The US Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa recognizes the African diaspora as a source of strength to the United States. The over $55 billion to be invested in the African continent over the next three years during the US Africa Summit and the new diaspora engagement initiatives are steps in the right direction. The African diaspora has a unique perspective and understanding of both the United States and Africa. By actively engaging in these initiatives, they can contribute to Africa’s economic and democratic development, while also strengthening US ties to the continent.
However, it is crucial for Black America to actively participate and positively influence these initiatives by bringing their skills and experiences to the table. For example, during her visit to Zambia, Vice President Harris announced initiatives to strengthen commercial engagement, invest in democratic institutions and good governance, and promote innovative food security, energy, and climate solutions.
Black America should also take advantage of the $7 billion in private sector and US government commitments to promote climate resilience, adaptation, and mitigation across Africa. These new investments and initiatives will generate significant economic benefits while addressing African nations’ pressing needs resulting from the climate crisis, including food security challenges, by helping to lift up over 116 million farmers and promote climate-smart agriculture.
Furthermore, the Vice President announced global initiatives on the economic empowerment of women, totaling over $1 billion. By engaging in these initiatives, African Americans & African Diaspora can help drive Africa’s economic and democratic development, ensuring a more prosperous future for the continent and its people.
In the words of former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Tibor Nagy, “For too long when investors have knocked on the door, and Africans have opened the door, the only person standing there was the Chinese.” It is time for Black America to step up and play a more active role in Africa’s development.