Rep. Sara Jacobs Cautions Against Matching PRC One-for-One on the African Continent for the Sake of Competition
Washington, April 18, 2023 | Lauren McIlvaine
Congresswoman Sara Jacobs (CA-51), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, cautioned against the United States matching the People’s Republic of China one-for-one on the African continent purely for the sake of competition. During the hearing entitled, Great Power Competition Implications in Africa: The Chinese Communist Party, Congresswoman Jacobs applauded the Biden Administration’s steps to reengage with African nations while urging that the U.S. should remember lessons from the Cold War and play a positive role in furthering progress on the continent like addressing conflict, upholding human rights, strengthening good governance, and tackling global challenges together.
Congresswoman Sara Jacobs, Ranking Member of the Africa Subcommittee, said:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I echo your sentiments regarding the World Food Programme folks in Sudan and your call for civilian lives to be protected during the bloodshed. Today’s hearing emphasizes the importance of renewed U.S. engagement in Sub-Saharan Africa and how it compares to that of our competitors, with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) being the focus today.
“Africa has the youngest population in the world, and how we engage on the continent and with the local communities will be remembered for decades to come. For too long, the African continent has been sidelined, or neglected, or seen as merely an aid beneficiary by leaders from the West, including by the United States.
“It is incredibly important – and long overdue – that we correct this, and thankfully, the Biden Administration has already taken important steps to correct this dynamic and reimagine America’s relationships in ways that avoid harmful patterns of colonialism.
“Last December, the Biden Administration hosted the first U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit since 2014 – to demonstrate our commitment to a new path forward with African countries. With this summit, the United States committed $55 billion to the African continent over the next three years in human capital, infrastructure, agriculture, health systems, and security investments.
“I particularly want to commend U.S. support for the African Union’s bid to join the G20 as a permanent member and for UN Security Council reform to include an African permanent member - ensuring African states have a representative seat at the table, where they are directly impacted by the decisions being made on the global stage.
“During this summit and the rollout of the Biden Administration’s U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, President Biden has emphasized that renewed U.S. engagement with the continent is not just through the lens of competition - that Africa is not just a pawn in a broader geopolitical game. Secretary Blinken has also made this clear, saying that “The United States will not dictate Africa’s choices. Neither should anyone else.”
“While we engage in strategic competition with the PRC on the global stage, we need to be mindful of lessons from the Cold War that unfortunately put African governments and populations in the crosshairs and caused immense suffering as we aligned with governments and militaries in pursuit of short-term security gains.
“Instead, we need to focus on the long-term impact of our engagement and ensure that we play a positive role in furthering progress on the continent, like addressing conflict, upholding human rights, strengthening good governance, and tackling global challenges together. Doing so helps protect our other engagements - like mobilizing increased trade and investment between the U.S. and African states.
“Another important part of increased U.S. engagement with African states is upping our game when it comes to our diplomatic engagement and presence on the continent. We have struggled for years to adequately staff up our embassies in the region, and it’s critical now more than ever that we address this challenge so we can show up and engage where and when it matters. So I look forward to working with the Biden Administration more on this.
“It is important to recognize China’s increased engagement on the continent and where they are fulfilling a need that the United States isn’t, but we shouldn’t take everything China is doing as an inherent threat that needs to be countered one-to-one. If we do this, we can both create more space for cooperation with China so that our engagement doesn’t spiral into greater conflict, and allow a healthier version of competition on the continent that actually benefits African people and serves their interests.
“I look forward to hearing from the witnesses today on the Biden Administration’s approach to this question and how we can truly prioritize the needs of African populations.”