Clinton was accompanied by a sizable U.S. business delegation, including representatives of major companies like General Electric, Boeing and Walmart, anxious to seal profitable deals. GE last year made $1.8 billion in revenue from the continent.
She visited Senegal, Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Benin.
“Africa offers the highest rate of return on foreign direct investment of any developing region in the world,” Clinton pitched to a U.S. business forum in Washington, D.C., in mid-June prior to her trip.
In an Aug. 1 speech at the University of Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal, the first stop on her tour, Clinton, while not mentioning China by name, took aim at its role in Africa. She asserted that Washington and U.S. corporations “will stand up for democracy and universal human rights even when it might be easier to look the other way and keep the resources coming. …
“The days of having outsiders come and extract the wealth of Africa for themselves leaving nothing or very little behind should be over in the 21st century,” Clinton stated. “America’s commitment” to Africa “adds value rather than extracts it.”
In response, China’s state-run news agency Xinhua in an Aug. 3 article said Clinton’s remarks were “an attempt to drive a wedge between China and Africa.” Her “implication that China has been extracting Africa’s wealth for itself is utterly wide of the truth,” the article stated. “It was the Western colonial powers that were exactly the so-called outsiders, which in Clinton’s words, came and extracted the wealth of Africa for themselves.”
In 2011, China’s exports to Africa were $73.4 billion, more than double U.S. exports to the continent. China-Africa trade that year reached $166 billion—$40 billion more than U.S.-Africa trade.
In June, the White House issued a new “U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa.” In the introduction Barack Obama says, “We will encourage American companies to seize trade and investment opportunities in Africa.” The Chinese government promptly responded with a promise of $20 billion in loans to African countries over the next three years.
Washington has also been expanding its military operations in Africa. It maintains 3,500 U.S. military personnel in Djibouti in Northeast Africa. The air base is a center for launching armed aerial drone attacks targeting the Islamist group al-Shabab in Somalia and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen.
In addition, National Guard units are being sent to various African countries. Next March another 3,000 U.S. soldiers will be deployed to Africa.
Last October, the Obama administration sent 100 special operations troops to four countries in Central Africa—Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo—as part of a military action targeting the Lord’s Resistance Army, a group of armed bandits operating in the region.
In Kenya, Clinton met with President Mwai Kibaki, in Nairobi, in talks aimed at strengthening military ties. With Washington’s backing , some 4,000 Kenyan troops invaded southern Somalia last October in a drive against supporters of al-Shabab.
Similarly, in Uganda Clinton sought to tighten ties with the nation’s military, which comprises a major component of the 10,000-strong African Union occupation force in Somalia. Ugandan troops are working closely with U.S. special forces operating inside Uganda.
Clinton also visited the newly created state of South Sudan. Gen. Carter Ham, commander of the U.S. Africa Command, recently announced that plans are in the works to establish a base for surveillance flights in Nzara there.
In Nigeria Aug. 9, Clinton characterized the country, the most populous on the continent, as one of Washington’s “most vitally important strategic partnerships in sub-Saharan Africa.” Nigeria is Africa’s top oil producer and a major exporter of light crude to the U.S.
She also offered to aid President Goodluck Jonathan in creating an “intelligence fusion cell” to combine spying information from the military and federal, state and local police agencies, with Washington providing training and equipment, and assistance tracking “suspects.”
Washington’s aim is to deepen ties with the Nigerian government in its drive against the Islamist group Boko Haram, which operates in the northern part of the country.
Attacks by Nigerian forces in these areas are increasingly unpopular. “The army is raiding our houses one after the other, beating and brutalizing people,” Rahamman Bello, a resident of Adavi village near Okene, told Reuters. “Many of our people are being arrested and molested.”
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