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US efforts won't affect cooperation: Experts

By EDITH MUTETHYA in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-31 09:28
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Visitors to the third China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo select products from Africa at the exhibition held in Changsha, Hunan province, in July 2023. CHEN ZHENHAI/XINHUA

Friendly relations and cooperation between China and Africa will not be encroached upon even as the United States has tried in recent years to counter China's influence on the continent, experts have said.

Kenyan President William Ruto last week visited the White House, the first state visit by an African president since 2008, reflecting the importance of a continent that is home to 1 billion people and nurtures close trade ties with China, but ranks behind on Washington's agenda, Reuters commented.

US President Joe Biden pledged to designate Kenya as the first sub-Saharan African country to be a major non-NATO ally. The two countries also agreed on other cooperations, including supporting Kenya's semiconductor industry.

The state visit came barely two years after the US-Africa Leaders Summit held in December 2022, when Washington pledged to invest $55 billion in Africa by 2025.

As the continent has suffered from neglect in the past, African scholars are skeptical, and wonder whether the US can fulfill its pledge.

Aly Khan Satchu, a Kenya-based analyst, said the US feels it has lagged behind China in terms of engagement with Africa, and is trying to catch up, as China has been Africa's largest trading partner for 15 consecutive years, and one of the biggest investors in the continent.

Despite the deals signed during Ruto's visit, Kenyans can only wait and see the results, said Macharia Munene, a professor of history and international relations at the United States International University in Nairobi, noting the US is "good at making promises but never delivering".

During Ruto's visit, the US agreed to start building in 2026 the 440-kilometer Nairobi-Mombasa Expressway, a badly needed road linking the two largest Kenyan cities.

But Cavince Adhere, a Kenyan scholar of international relations, said the expressway was promised by the US to former two Kenyan presidents, and that it may not be implemented even during the current Ruto administration.

"The expressway came up when the US learned that China and Kenya were planning to build the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway. This year, the SGR is celebrating seven years of operation. For the US, it is promise after promise," he said.

Construction of the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR, a major infrastructure project in Kenya under the Belt and Road Initiative, was completed in 2017, just two and a half years after the construction started.

Adhere said the US may not compete with China on major infrastructure projects, because traditionally it has never been interested in improving the economic capabilities of African countries through infrastructure construction.

The Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, launched in June 2022 by the US-led G7, to compete with the BRI, is yet to deliver a single project, said Adhere, noting the BRI has transformed Africa's infrastructure landscape.

What's more, China has become the most preferred destination for young Africans seeking higher education abroad, he said.

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