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US-Africa summit an empty rhetoric

By Morris Komakech

The summit could have been fruitful if Mr. Obama had announced at least 85% of US debt relief to Africa

Listening to U.S. President Barack Obama dupe Africa and its leaders was the most amusing highlight of the US-African summit recently hosted in Washington DC.

Obama opined, and I quote: “We don’t look to Africa simply for its natural resources. We recognise Africa for its greatest resource which is its people and its talents and its potential”.

While many Africans clapped their hands in approval, some few analytical ones knew that this was empty rhetoric that dominates global economic policies towards Africa.

Available historical accounts of US-Africa relation show the contrary.


To contextualise the US-African summit 2014, one needs to understand that this conference is a direct counter to the increasing economic influence of China in Africa. The US and its allies are genuinely frightened of the rate at which China is making concrete investment and control over Africa’s crude oil and mineral resources.

By 2009, China was already Africa’s main trading partner, surpassing USA. In 2012, China’s trade volume with Africa hit US$ 198.5 billion mark while the U.S. was at only US$99.8 billion. That is twice as much trading already and yet China’s trade with Africa is only 5% of its total globe trade. It is estimated that more than 80% of China’s US$98.3 billion of import from Africa in 2011 were in minerals, raw resources, and crude oil.

China’s trade with Africa has been soaring in the last decade or so, while USA has been meddling in Africa for centuries. Why then is Obama misinforming the world about U.S. interests and presence in Africa as if U.S. is a new entrant in exploiting the continent?

For many centuries, the developed West sustained very unfavourable trade relations with Africa best described as bullied exploitation and economic repression. For the most, the current predicament of Africa and its lagged economic progress is mainly attributable to these centuries of exploitative bullying from the U.S., UK, France and most of their colonial apparatuses that continue to meddle in Africa’s internal affairs.

Therefore, Obama’s claim that the U.S. looks beyond oil and mineral resources should be treated with the contempt it deserves.

The basis of any positive economic relationship with Africa has been hinged on crude oil and raw materials. The U.S. has footprints in each and every country in Africa, stable or unstable. They are there primarily and precisely for economic benefit, not to develop human resources or African infrastructure. Otherwise, Africa would not have been as poor and deficient in all internal aspects to compete favourably in the international markets.

Obama offers of US$ 33 Billion in new trade partnerships are to ensure that U.S. goods and services gain access to African markets. This is another baloney. One only needs to read John Perkins’ 2004 book: “Confession of an economic hit man”, Jeffrey Sach’s 2005 “End of Poverty: economic possibilities for our times” and Health Poverty Action’s 2014 report, “Honest Account? The true story of African billion dollars losses”, to unpack the worthlessness of this Obama US-Africa trade package.

Perkins is unequivocal in his narration of how the US has always used underhand methods such as assassinations, cultivating civil unrest leading to regime change, paying bribe to influential leaders and where possible, supplying arms and protection of crooked leaders to manipulate co-operations of all kinds from any country in the world. Perkins provides numerous examples around the world where the US is still involved or where it left tragic footprints in pursuit of its interests. According to Sachs, the true value of American foreign aid that reached the person in Africa in 2002 was only 6 cents after all deductions. Both Perkins and Sachs show that most of the money that the U.S. offers to Africa, either as aid for cooperation or grants go directly to U.S. agencies, paying off “expatriates”, deduction for debts owed and financing infrastructure that serves American interests in those countries.

The Health Poverty Action report shows that for every US$ 30 billion in foreign aid that Africa receives annually, it losses US$192 billion. The money is lost through loan and debt repaying of US$46.5 billion. Other losses include US$35.3 Billion in tax evasion and other illicit financial flows facilitated through tax havens; US$17 billion in illegal logging; US$3 billion in remittances; US$46.3 billion repatriation of profits made by multinational companies; US$1.3 billion in illegal fishing and Africa incurs a loss of US$36.6 billion as a result of climate change and US$6 billion as a result of brain drain.

We conclude that this summit could have been fruitful if Obama had announced at least 85% of US debt relief to Africa; expanded US market access beyond existing mechanisms such as AGOA, Power Africa Initiatives, a declaration to respect African autonomy over its resources and removal of Agricultural subsidies and protective mechanism to inhibit agro-based imports to the US markets.

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Morris Komakech is Global Health and Health Policy Analyst and can be contacted via [email protected]

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