Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 00:52 | SYDNEY
Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 00:52 | SYDNEY

Cold war redux in Africa?


Sam Roggeveen


20 February 2009 14:16

If you're going to compete for influence in Africa, there are certainly more destructive ways to do it. According to the Grauniad, the UK is investing US$1 billion in African road and rail infrastructure, in part to 'counter' Chinese influence on the continent.

Well, that's certainly better than having rich countries fuel civil and inter-state wars through arms sales (although that still happens too). But the story does make 'Western countries' sound a bit negligent:

The initiative is part of a web of investments and reconstruction plans that have taken hold across Africa in recent years, on a scale unseen since the road and rail networks were first laid down by European colonisers. They include massive Chinese construction programmes that have unnerved western countries, which fear loss of trade and influence on the continent.

So why didn't these Western countries make their investments earlier, before China got its head start? Maybe part of the answer is that the West is just not as concerned about China's influence in Africa as the article makes out. A Cold War-style 'competition for influence' story might be the easiest one to write, but I think we're a long way from that scenario, and perhaps in danger of talking ourselves into it.