Public Dialogue on the role of the US and China in African development

From left to right: Dr David Monyae, Professor John Stremlau, Professor Yin Fulin, and Dr Shengyong Qin.

On Thursday 2 March 2017, the UJ CI, in partnership with the UJ Library, hosted a Public Dialogue on ‘The role of the US and China in Africa’s quest for development’. The event was attended by more than 100 people, including ten Ambassadors, High Commissioners and senior diplomats.

The Public Dialogue examined how China and the US are engaging with Africa. It also looked at the foreign policies adopted by each country and how they fit within the broader context of Africa’s development, particularly with the AU’s Agenda 2063.

Dr David Monyae, Co-Director of the UJCI, said it was the first in a series of dialogues UJCI would host this year on various topics concerning Africa-China relations.

China and the US are important players in the politics and economic development of Africa. These two major powers have undertaken several initiatives to deepen their engagement with the continent to expand their interests. While the US had a head start on investment and commercial engagement with Africa, its focus has mostly been on promoting liberal democratic ideals for economic development. China, on the other hand, has enhanced its role on the continent with a no strings attached approach to investment and commercial engagement creating the impression that Beijing is ready and willing to support Africa’s development efforts.

Dr David Monyae chaired the Public Dialogue and the main presentations came from Professor Gilbert Khadiagala: Jan Smuts Professor of International Relations and Head of Department, University of Witwatersrand; Dr Shengyong Qin: Co-Director: Confucius Institute, University of Cape Town; Professor Yin Fulin Chinese Co-director: University of Johannesburg (UJCI) and Professor John Stremlau: Visiting Professor, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

“Africa is a strategic region for the US and China, and this should propel the African Union (AU) to use this opportunity to further its development agenda for the continent. It should not be Beijing or Washington that shapes Africa’s agenda; rather Africa must define how to strategically engage these two powers. In other words, Africa should stand firm and negotiate fair deals (win-win) with both China and the US explained Dr Monyae.

The public lecture dealt with the role of the African Agency in shaping the outcomes of its engagements with external partners. It also looked at Africa’s developmental agenda (as defined by the AU’s Agenda 2063) and critically evaluated whether the US and China are competitors or partners in their interactions with the African Continent.