Kamala Harris Extends U.S. Bids Against China on Africa Visit

Kamala Harris Extends U.S. Bids Against China on Africa Visit
US Vice President Kamala Harris at a roundtable of women entrepreneurs in Accra, Ghana, March 29. (VOA)

The Lede: Vice President Kamala Harris continues a string of U.S. diplomatic visits to African countries against the backdrop of China's growing influence on the continent.

What We Know:

  • Vice President Kamala Harris visited Africa in the last week of March for a three-country tour focused on economic development and security. Over nine days, she has met with leaders in Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia.
  • She announced $100 million in security, governance, and development issues for Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire, and Togo on the Western coast of Africa, but specified that this was not an effort to counter China or Russia. She also announced $500 million to facilitate trade with Tanzania

The Background: In the last decade, China has extensively spent billions of dollars on infrastructure and development projects in almost every country in Africa while Russia has increased military cooperation with African countries. The Biden administration has sought to strengthen ties on the continent with visits this year by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, U.N. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The official visits follow the U.S.-Africa leaders' summit in December where President Biden announced a $55 billion commitment to the continent over the next three years.

Likely Outcomes:

  • These visits will likely be just the beginning of a larger effort by the U.S. to try to catch up to the warm cooperative relations that African countries share with America’s rivals. Although the U.S. has made pledges of large sums to African counterparts, they may view these as just another partnership opportunity rather than an outright win over rivals. China has prioritized Africa for years while the U.S. has focused more on other regions until now. Given China’s head start and the buzz surrounding its impressive development projects, it may be too late for the U.S. to impress African countries in the same way.
  • African countries that are now in the spotlight with the U.S. during these visits broadly view international cooperation as a mutual benefit while the U.S. sees it as a zero-sum game with its rivals. This may lead to a misallocation of funds and investments that do not serve U.S. interests in ways that compare or overshadow China’s achievements. Still, African countries seeking cooperation, especially with loans, may weigh the costs and benefits of western and Chinese options. The same considerations may apply to most other developing countries in the world.


"The U.S. is strengthening our partnerships across the continent of Africa, and they are guided not by what we can do for Africa, but with Africa and our African partners on this continent." – Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States of America

“There may be an obsession in America about the Chinese activities over the continent, but there's no such obsession here. But China is one of the many countries with whom Ghana is engaged in the world. Your country is one of them. Virtually all the countries in the world are friends with Ghana.” – Nana Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana

“When I’m in Washington, I’m not against Beijing. When I’m in Beijing, I’m not against Washington. None of these relationships are about working against someone or a group of countries.” – Hakainde Hichilema, President of Zambia

“Most African countries are rightly unapologetic about their close ties to China. China shows up where and when the West will not and/or are reluctant.” – Yemi Osinbajo, Vice President of Nigeria

Good Reads:

China’s global influence looms over Harris trip to Africa (AP)

Biden sends top officials to try to win over African nations long-wooed by China and Russia (CBS News)

Harris visits Africa to strengthen U.S. ties and counter Chinese influence (PBS)