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Africa’s Strategy Should Look Forward Not East or West

Seventeen African countries are taking part in a two-day Democracy summit hosted by US President Joe Biden, billed as an event to discuss ways to defend against the rise of authoritarianism. Observers say it highlights the contrasting priorities of the US and China on the continent. The summit comes just over a week after the triennial Forum on China-Africa Cooperation was held in Senegal’s capital, Dakar, which has grown in significance as China became the continent’s largest trade partner. China’s President Xi Jinping announced investments of at least $40bn in projects spanning agriculture, digital economy, climate change, industrialisation, as well as one billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines in donation and joint manufacturing. Trade expert Francis Mangeni says it would be best for Africa if the various initiatives focussed on synergy not competition. “Rather than seeing Chinese influence in Africa as negative and responding by competition and antagonism or containment, I think the other powers should complement it,” he said. But he adds that it is up to African countries to assert their collective influence to ensure that this happens.