Will the Arab countries succeed in saving the African continent from the Chinese-American polarisation?

China is increasing its influence on the African continent (Photo by Shutterstock) 

The Saudi project to build a solar power plant in South Africa and its support of Egypt in the Grand Renaissance Dam dispute are two models of strategic cooperation with the African continent by Saudi Arabia. Will China's influence prove to be greater? Abdel Rahman reports.

African countries are at the forefront of the deterioration of education indicators, living standards, the decline in welfare and social welfare, especially the deterioration of the conditions of women and children, according to the human development indicators of the United Nations. Despite this, more and more disillusioned young people are seeking their way through the asylum corridors to reach Europe.

On January 25, 2022, the evaluation by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which is concerned with strengthening governance on the African continent, was issued in London, England.  This foundation monitors the state of African countries in governance and leadership and issues its assessment of the African continent every two years. British billionaire Mohamed Ibrahim, of Sudanese origin, launched his foundation in 2006, and the board of directors consists of many prominent British and African personalities.

The report, which was issued in both Dakar, Senegal, and London highlighted that the African continent had been subjected to 23 coup attempts over the past 10 years, including eight military coups since 2019.

The report says that 70 per cent of Africans now live in less secure countries than in the past decade. It confirms that the continent has become less secure and democratic in this time, This is highlighted by the spread of coups, armed conflicts, and terrorism. The political progress that the continent witnessed after decades of colonisation has deteriorated.

In its attempt to find out what is happening, at the end of 2021 the European Parliament reviewed the weaknesses and failure of countries in sub-Saharan Africa. It affirmed that the absence of security and terrorism, and the weakness of democratic institutions, the absence of an independent judiciary, the manipulation of constitutional references and elections, and the retreat from the gains of political and civil rights are reasons for the low levels of economic development,

Terror and hopelessness

African countries also suffer from the growing phenomenon of terrorism, whether in Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Nigeria and Mali. This phenomenon has spread from West to East Africa, and there are terrorist networks from the far African coast in the west to the Horn of Africa in the east, where Al-Shabaab is located, the highly dangerous wing of Al-Qaeda.

Terrorist organisations in Africa are not limited to a particular religion or sect. There are terrorist groups of Muslims, Christians, and other religions, and that seven of the 10 countries most exposed to the dangers of terrorism are located in Africa.

The report refers to the turbulent political situation, the weak role and absence of the state, corruption, economic and social marginalisation, security, economic and social crises, conflicts and civil wars, the spread of poverty, complex social structures and the diversity in African countries. All these factors attracted terrorist groups to operate in the region.

The African continent, where 15 per cent of the world's population resides, and the original home of human existence, and where there is an abundance of natural and animal resources, water and fertile lands, has 34 out of a total of 46 on the United Nations list of least developed countries.

Africa and the American-Chinese competition

Last December, US President Joe Biden called for an American-African summit in Washington DC, the second summit of this kind, after his  predecessor President Obama, held the first summit in 2014. Perhaps the main motives of the Washington summit were to stop China's influence on the African continent, as part of its strategic project known as the Belt and Road Initiative.

At the recent summit, the US administration suggested its African partners invest USD 55 billion over the next three years to develop infrastructure, support the clean energy sector, as well as agriculture, the health sector, the digital economy, electricity and the internet,

The summit statement emphasised the deepening partnership with African leaders, civil society organisations, the business sector and women and youth. The African continent has also seen a comprehensive transformation in the continent over the last decade, through economic partnerships, a joint commitment to democracy and human rights, combating epidemics, ensuring food security, and deepening peace, security and stability in Africa.

For its part, China has held many summits with African countries, the latest of which was in 2020, under the banner of combating the COVID -19 epidemic. In record time, China's trade with Africa has gone from USD 1 billion in the 1970s to more than USD280 billion in 2022, up 11% by 2021. Hence, Africa's exports to China are.as high as its exports to America, and four times as high as its exports to Europe,  

Many observers in the Arab countries believe that the increasing Chinese presence comes at the expense of Arab world. Jordan and Egypt are led by Saudi to bring about a strategic change in international relations in the region . This is important going, forward.

Saudi held the first Arab-African summit in Riyadh, which was postponed due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Saudi-African summit resulted in Saudi Arabia and the Arab countries agreeing to invest USD 100 billion over several years, in natural resources, minerals, communications, airports, seaports management, agriculture, banks, networking and and energy, thereby building on Egypt's accumulated experiences in Africa.

It is also important to highlight two models of constructive strategic cooperation with the African continent, such as the pioneering Saudi project to build a solar power plant in South Africa at a value of USD328 million.

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Saturday, 30 September 2023