US tries to secure a strategic position in Africa

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began an 11-day tour of six African countries this week. Taking place soon after the Obama administration announced a new strategy for the southern Sahara region, Clinton’s trip underlines the US commitment to give priority to Africa in its foreign policy.

The tour, starting on July 31, seeks to boost trade, strengthen peace and security, and bolster democratic institutions on the Dark Continent.

During her first stop in Senegal on August 1, Clinton gave a speech in Dakar, then met with President Macky Sall, to whom she repeated Washington’s assurance that Senegal is seen as the US’s most trustworthy partner in the African Francophone community.

During her stay in South Sudan, Clinton is scheduled to hold talks with President Salva Kiir, reconfirming US support for South Sudan while boosting negotiations with Sudan to reach a deal on security, oil, and citizenship between these two countries.

Before returning to the US on August 10, Clinton will stop in Uganda to hold talks with President Yoweri Museveni on the outbreak of the Ebola virus that has killed 14 people here.

In Kenya, the US Secretary of State will hold talks with senior officials to show US support for the transfer of power in Somalia scheduled for August 20. After visiting Malawi, Clinton and a US business delegation will go to South Africa to attend a US-South African Strategic Dialogue.

Observers describe Clinton’s trip to Africa as significant in several ways. Geographically, Africa, with its 30 million square kilometres, occupies one fifth of the earth’s landmass. It has abundant natural resources, especially precious metals and oil.

In recent years, with the discovery of new oil fields in the Gulf of Guinea, Africa has secured an important place among the world’s oil producers. Africa also has rich agricultural and forestry resources.

These advantages made the Dark Continent the dream of colonialists in the past and a focus of global strategists today.

Clinton’s trip follows the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in Beijing last month, and reflects the US ambition to keep a step ahead of other countries, especially China, in influencing developments here.

While the former administration of George W. Bush was bogged down with its war against terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, Beijing created its own foothold here.

China is now the leading investor in several African countries. Chinese-African trade turnover has increased significantly in the past few years. To slake its thirst for energy, raw materials, and cheap labor, China has poured a lot of money into Africa, sending investors to open mines, and build factories, roads, and damps.

China has steadily increased the number of African import items exempted from tariffs and has forgiven the debts of 32 African countries. At the recent ministerial conference in Beijing, China pledged to spend US$20 billion in this region over the next three years.

China’s efforts have spurred the Obama administration to redouble its own efforts in this importance race. The US Department of Energy has committed to import 770 million barrels of oil from Africa each year until 2020. The National Intelligence Council estimates that by 2015, the amount of oil imported from Africa will account for 25 percent of the US’s total imported oil.

VOV5/VOV online