US-China rivalry to escalate in Africa in 2019 Updated for 2021


Updated: February 28, 2021

The open trade spat between the United States and China would escalate in Africa next year, experts who claim to foresee the future have predicted in a new report.

And this is how it would happen: The U.S. would continue to warn African nations that Chinese debt-fueled spending would lead to a slow but ugly dependence that would snowball into takeovers as it happened in Sri Lanka and is currently happening in Djibouti. These loans would become debt traps that would eventually lead to economic instability across the continent.

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However, despite these warnings that would get louder and louder, China would continue to expand investments and business deals in Africa, pouring in billions of dollars on roads, bridges, railways and elsewhere, especially in East Africa, thereby eroding U.S. influence on the continent, and eventually leading to a raging fight.

No one knows for certain if this would happen, but at least these are key findings of RiskMap 2019, a publication forecasting political and security risk for business leaders and policy makers across the world, by specialist global risk consultancy Control Risks.

“So far, the US-China rivalry that dominated global headlines in 2018 has played out less visibly in Africa than on other continents. Support for China or the US has not emerged as a defining issue in African politics, with most countries keen to pursue closer ties and seek financing from both sides rather than falling neatly on one camp. In 2019 we might see this changing,” said Daniel Heal, Senior Partner for East Africa based in Nairobi.

“While still the largest investor on the continent, the US has seen its engagement on the continent become more narrowly focused on security matters under the current administration – in contrast to China which has made formidable inroads in sub-Saharan Africa over the last decade,” Heal added.

Daniel Heal, Senior Partner for East Africa based in Nairobi(Source: Control Risks Group Holdings Ltd |

He said “2019 will show revived US interest in development finance and lending for infrastructure projects on the continent and a more concerted US commercial strategy towards Africa is likely to take shape.

“The increased rivalry will therefore open up additional investment opportunities but will also present African countries with increasingly starker foreign policy and commercial choices.”

But these rivalries between the United States and China would not only complicate things for African nations, the trade US-China trade confrontation will define global geopolitics in 2019.

Friction between these two nations will complicate business not only for those European businesses operating in both countries but also for those with connections several times removed.

The prediction says the stand-off between the three major data regulation ideologies will present a new level of risk for international business in 2019. For China, data is something to be controlled; for the EU, it is something to be protected; for the US, it is something to be commercialized.

As a result, businesses must be prepared for the challenge of collecting, storing and transferring data within and between these three domains against a backdrop of inconsistent enforcement and escalating cyber security threats. US political gridlock

The vice of legislative gridlock will close on policy making in Washington and throw the US into a period of political uncertainty.

George Nicholls, Senior Partner for Southern Africa based in Johannesburg(Source: Control Risks Group Holdings Ltd |

Resurgent Democrats in the House of Representatives will seek to scrutinise the president under an investigative lens. Pushback from a Republican Senate and White House will erase any hopes of consistency for business operations. Trade policy will remain unpredictable; the pace of deregulation will slow. Extreme weather disruption
Some of worst business disruption in 2019 will stem from extreme weather and its consequences.

From storms to floods to droughts and forest fires, the costs of interrupted production, distribution, sales and travel will skyrocket in 2019. Last year’s record for weather-related insurance claims will likely be surpassed.

Multinationals becoming nationless

As globalized companies enter 2019, they risk becoming nationless nomads, as nationalist politics continue to advance across the world. Formal and informal barriers are rising. Frictionless trade is beginning to rub, supply chains are starting to drag. Business leaders must recalibrate and adapt to this new reality, or global players will end up being played by a world in uncertain transition.

The map forecasting political and security risks across the world in 2019 will be available here.


Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on


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