Obama in South Africa: Washington tells Pretoria how to ‘play the game’ in Africa

Protesters greet Obama, June 28, 2013.

By Patrick Bond, Durban

July 1, 2013Links International Journal of Socialist RenewalUS President Barack Barack Obama’s weekend trip to South Africa may have the desired effect of slowing the geopolitical realignment of Pretoria to the Brazil-India-Russia-China-South Africa (BRICS) axis. That shift to BRICS has not, however, meant deviation from the hosts’ political philosophy, best understood as “talk left, walk right” since it mixes anti-imperialist rhetoric with pro-corporate policies.

Overshadowed by Nelson Mandela’s critically ill health, Obama’s implicit denial of a US imperial agenda could not disguise Washington’s economic paranoia. As expressed on June 25 by White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, “What we hear from our businesses is that they want to get in the game in Africa. There are other countries getting in the game in Africa – China, Brazil, Turkey. And if the US is not leading in Africa, we’re going to fall behind in a very important region of the world.”

Over a century earlier, another Rhodes – Cecil John – explained that very game: “We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit the cheap slave labour that is available from the natives of the colonies. The colonies would also provide a dumping ground for the surplus goods produced in our factories.” Although there is no longer formal slave labour within formal colonies, this sentiment readily links the neoliberal agenda of both the BRICS and the US.

Perhaps embarrassed, Obama himself retracted Ben Rhodes’ confession of inter-imperial rivalry when asked by the White House press corps: “I want everybody playing in Africa. The more the merrier. A lot of people are pleased that China is involved in Africa.”

This must have raised cynical eyebrows, because he added, “China’s primary interest is being able to obtain access for natural resources in Africa to feed the manufacturers in export-driven policies of the Chinese economy.” Continue reading

Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa: BRICS and the new Scramble for Africa

fadjbjaeXi Trip Highlights China’s African Influence

China’s new president Xi Jinping heads to Africa as his country’s influence on the continent soars, but with its big money is provoking resentment.

21 Mar 2013 08:21 – Kelly Olsen

Xi will visit Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of Congo as part of his first overseas trip, which begins in Russia on Friday and will include an emerging economies summit in Durban, South Africa. Continue reading

Secret Wars, Secret Bases, and the Pentagon’s “New Spice Route” in Africa

Nick Turse, Middle East Online, July 12, 2012

They call it the New Spice Route, an homage to the medieval trade network that connected Europe, Africa, and Asia, even if today’s “spice road” has nothing to do with cinnamon, cloves, or silks. Instead, it’s a superpower’s superhighway, on which trucks and ships shuttle fuel, food, and military equipment through a growing maritime and ground transportation infrastructure to a network of supply depots, tiny camps, and airfields meant to service a fast-growing U.S. military presence in Africa.
Few in the U.S. know about this superhighway, or about the dozens of training missions and joint military exercises being carried out in nations that most Americans couldn’t locate on a map. Even fewer have any idea that military officials are invoking the names of Marco Polo and the Queen of Sheba as they build a bigger military footprint in Africa. It’s all happening in the shadows of what in a previous imperial age was known as “the Dark Continent.”
In East African ports, huge metal shipping containers arrive with the everyday necessities for a military on the make. They’re then loaded onto trucks that set off down rutted roads toward dusty bases and distant outposts.
On the highway from Djibouti to Ethiopia, for example, one can see the bare outlines of this shadow war at the truck stops where local drivers take a break from their long-haul routes. The same is true in other African countries. The nodes of the network tell part of the story: Manda Bay, Garissa, and Mombasa in Kenya; Kampala and Entebbe in Uganda; Bangui and Djema in the Central African Republic; Nzara in South Sudan; Dire Dawa in Ethiopia; and the Pentagon’s showpiece African base, Camp Lemonnier, in Djibouti on the coast of the Gulf of Aden, among others.
According to Pat Barnes, a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), Camp Lemonnier serves as the only official U.S. base on the continent. “There are more than 2,000 U.S. personnel stationed there,” he told TomDispatch recently by email. “The primary AFRICOM organization at Camp Lemonnier is Combined Joint Task Force — Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). CJTF-HOA’s efforts are focused in East Africa and they work with partner nations to assist them in strengthening their defense capabilities.”
Barnes also noted that Department of Defense personnel are assigned to U.S. embassies across Africa, including 21 individual Offices of Security Cooperation responsible for facilitating military-to-military activities with “partner nations.” He characterized the forces involved as small teams carrying out pinpoint missions. Barnes did admit that in “several locations in Africa, AFRICOM has a small and temporary presence of personnel. In all cases, these military personnel are guests within host-nation facilities, and work alongside or coordinate with host-nation personnel.” Continue reading

When India and China Scramble for Africa, Who Wins?

Chinese foreman, African workers

By Jemima Pierre, Black Agenda Report editor and columnist
June 15, 2011China and Indian have both boosted their trade and investment in Africa in recent years, but “South-South” solidarity is not all it’s cracked up to be. The continent’s relationship with the Asian giants is lopsided. “Africa is quickly becoming the largest market for both countries to dump their cheap commodities.” Both countries are focused on “land and resource extraction, and new markets for manufactured products.”

“While both countries argue that their engagement with the continent is non-ideological and has no imperialist goals, the new relations of trade look much like the old.”

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s attendance at the Second Africa-India Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia this past May marked his fourth visit to the continent in his eight years in office. For Singh, such summits are designed to “respond to the needs and priorities of Africa and for India.” The relationship between Africa and India is one “based on equality, mutual trust and a consultative and transparent approach,” he continued. “It is a living embodiment of South-South cooperation.” For the Indian state, it also signifies the triumphant success of its “bilateral” relationship with Africa, one that has granted lucrative access to Africa’s vast resources while cultivating influence with Africa’s political elite. Other Indian and international commentators, however, hail these summits as India’s challenge [4] to China’s oversized [5] role on the continent. Meanwhile, the ever-compromised African Union seem to follow Robert Mugabe’s assertion [6] that Africa has “turned east, where the sun rises, and given [its] back to the west, where the sun sets.” Continue reading

France Eyes New Tack To Profit In Africa

What the last Scramble for Africa looked like, 100 years ago

(The neo-colonial scramble for Africa is neither identical nor less oppressive.  Now France is putting on a new face).

June 01, 2010

By DON MELVIN, Associated Press Writer

NICE, France (AP) China’s investment in Africa has increased so much in recent years that some Africans fear a new form of colonialism.

Now, France, one of the continent’s old colonial masters, is looking to Africa with outstretched hands, working to imitate China and step up its own investment there.

To send that message, French President Nicolas Sarkozy opened this week’s 25th Africa-France summit for the first time to captains of industry as part of his bid to get “made in France” labels on bridges, roads and other infrastructure now made by China and to increase Europe’s influence in Africa once again.

Africa “is not the only place where Europe’s influence is on the wane, and we should accept it,” Andris Piebalgs, the European Union’s development minister told The Associated Press at the summit Tuesday. He said Europe needed “to learn from the positive Chinese experience.”

The tables have turned on the French in Africa, once at the heart of its colonial empire. Continue reading