Updated: March 3, 2021
The Trump administration on Thursday unveiled its new Africa policy, announcing that it would put the interests of the United States first, and would no longer waste taxpayers’ money on “indiscriminate assistance” and “unproductive, unsuccessful and unaccountable” UN peacekeeping missions on the continent.
The United States would also counter “corrupt” China and Russia, two countries destabilizing Africa with arms and debt traps.
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The U.S. national security adviser, John Bolton, who made the announcement in a speech at the Heritage Foundation thinktank in Washington, D.C., said the new relationship would be built around trade and countering terrorism.
“The United States will no longer provide indiscriminate assistance across the entire continent, without focus or prioritization. And, we will no longer support unproductive, unsuccessful, and unaccountable UN peacekeeping missions,” Bolton said.
“We want something more to show for Americans’ hard-earned taxpayer dollars.”
President Trump approved the policy on Wednesday and the administration would begin executing it immediately, Bolton said.
Bolton said China and Russia were using their investments and trade to gain direct leverage on African governments through corrupt means.
“China uses bribes, opaque agreements, and the strategic use of debt to hold states in Africacaptive to Beijing’s wishes and demands. Its investment ventures are riddled with corruption, and do not meet the same environmental or ethical standards as US development projects,” Bolton said.
He cited the example of Zambia and said the country was now in debt for up to $10 billion to China, warning that the Chinese would take over Zambia’s national power company to recoup the huge debt.
Bolton said Djibouti was also deeply indebted to China in the horn of Africa where the Chinese have also established a military base close to the US base Camp Lemonnier.
He recalled an incident in which laser beams coming from the Chinese base had targeted US pilots, inflicting eye injuries on two of them.
He said Djibouti may soon also hand over the Doraleh container port on the Red Sea to Beijing, which would tilt the balance of power on the Horn of Africa in China’s favour.
Bolton accused Russia of selling arms and energy in exchange for votes at the UN and Russia is also helping “strongmen in power”.
Putin’s country is undermining peace and security, which run counter to the best interests of the African people.
“The predatory practices pursued by China and Russia stunt economic growth in Africa; threaten the financial independence of African nations; inhibit opportunities for US investment; interfere with US military operations; and pose a significant threat to US national security interests,” he said.
He said the US foreign assistance program was under review, which would be completed soon, and would involve different vehicles for delivering aid, but Bolton did not explain how that would counter Chinese and Russian influence.
On U.S. assistance to Africa, Bolton said between 1995 and 2006, the US gave as much to the continent in aid as all other donors combined.
“Unfortunately, billions upon billions of US taxpayer dollars have not achieved the desired effects,” Bolton said, and made clear the Trump administration would take a far more sceptical view of UN peacekeeping operations.
“We will only back effective and efficient operations, and we will seek to streamline, reconfigure, or terminate missions that are unable to meet their own mandate or facilitate lasting peace. Our objective is to resolve conflicts, not freeze them in perpetuity,” Bolton said.