February 1, 2023

Top Biden official suggests China is no match for the U.S. when it comes to doing ‘sustainable’ business in Africa

Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and Environment Jose W. Fernandez
Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and Environment Jose W. Fernandez

A top Biden official on Wednesday compared the way the United States approaches business in Africa with their Chinese counterparts, insinuating that the difference was very clear.

United States Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and Environment, Jose W. Fernandez, who traveled to South Africa to attend the 2022 Investing in Africa Mining Indaba Conference spoke with reporters via teleconference from Cape Town.

Asked to detail what the United States was doing to counter China in Africa, Mr. Fernandez clarified that the United States policy “is not to ask our partners to choose between the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China.”

He said while the United States is not opposed to China in Africa, it insists on investors respecting local laws, following human rights, including workers’ rights and the protection of the environment.

He said, “We – our policy is not to ask our partners to choose between the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China.  We’re not doing that.  We believe that we offer an alternative vision for economic development that promotes democratic governance, respect for human rights, and transparency to more sustainably – and we keep talking about the word “sustainable” – more sustainably serve the long-term interests of the people in – here in Africa.  Our focus will always be on strengthening local capacity; creating African jobs, not imported jobs; and working with our partners to promote economic development that’s beneficial, sustainable, and inclusive.

“So we do not oppose PRC involvement in the region.  In fact, we welcome sustainable and responsible investment from all nations in the world.  But what we do insist on and what we believe is that what African countries, what African governments want is for all investments, including PRC investments, to respect local laws, local interests, to follow human rights, including worker rights, and protections for the environment. 

“And the reason we do that is not just because that kind of an investment is the only way you can get to a sustainable investment but also because our companies are not going to engage in the race to the bottom.  They must be able to compete in a race to the top that creates an even playing field, and we will promote entrepreneurship and infrastructure development and capacity-building and fair practices. 

“So we do not object to any country’s investment.  We just want to make sure that it follows the highest standards.”

Mr. Fernandez also rejected insinuation that the United States was not engaging enough with African entrepreneurs, saying that was not the case.

“Through a number of our efforts – Power Africa, Prosper Africa – we have been partnering with U.S. companies and governments here in Africa to promote renewable energy development on the continent.  We have multi-billion-dollar investments that have taken place in a number of countries.  I mentioned a few yesterday, and we will continue to do that,” he said.


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