The ascendance of competitive powers (especially china and Russia) and their influences on Africa seems to be drifting U.S. policy imperatives towards Africa. The shift in policy is apparent as the Pentagon announces a new U.S. Defense Strategy towards Africa.
Until now, the United States foreign policy imperatives, particularly in relations with Africa, have been framed by four major pillars: first, the perseveration of the Westphalian state system as the basic unit of the international legal and security order. In this context state collapse (particularly African) is a security threat. Second, economic assistance—aid, capacity building, and institutional enhancements. Third, energy security—in Africa, this relates to a small group of States. Lastly, global trade and commerce, relating to US assets and investments.
In recent years, following the terrorist attack of 9/11, counterterrorism became a significant preoccupation of the United States in Africa. In spite of what appears to be a positive relation (for some), the charges of neo-colonialism and imperialism have never faded away (At least for others). Secretary Mattis’ pronouncement of a new U.S. National Defense Strategy—shifting focus from combating terrorism to confronting China and Russia—reaffirms those charges.
Africa seems to be at an inflection point in the fight against terrorism. With Somalia, Nigeria, and Mali battling some of the deadliest terrorist groups, Africa remains a hotspot. Cutting about 700 (10%) U.S. troops from Africa at such a time raises serious questions about U.S. commitments to ‘work with Africa.’ A U.S.—China/Russia confrontation could very well be the beginning of a new era in US-Africa relations. Whatever the implications may be, they will surely haunt us for years to come.