The Telegraph of London reports the US Defence Department last week quietly launched AFRICOM, a military presence intended for “black Africa and the Sahara”. The impetus includes fighting Al Qaeda and “coping with natural disasters”.
One of those “natural disasters”, however, is ongoing attempts by Communist China to secure for itself a large chunk of the world’s oil, gas and mineral reserves. The US is indicating there might be some resistance.
The US imports 10% of its oil from Africa, and this figure is expected to rise soon to 25%. That is, if China doesn’t get there first. Much of the world’s uranium, platinum, chromium, cobalt and copper also comes from Africa. China’s oil consumption has risen from 4.5mbpd to 7.5mbpd in five years. Experts predict that by 2020 China will be running 140 million cars requiring 13mbpd of oil.
FNArena has reported extensively this last week on China’s moves in Africa and the West’s reaction. Recent developments include a Chinese loan of US$2 billion to Angola at 1.5% over seventeen years, with more to come. Angola would have been forced to otherwise turn to the IMF, and satisfy constraints relating to transparency and fraud. China’s loan has no strings attached.
China was then able to bid for blocks of Angola’s oilfields containing 4.5 billion barrels of crude, thus shutting out Royal Dutch/Shell. Angola now provides 7% of China’s oil. Similar deals have been executed in Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and the oil-rich and terror-wracked nation of Nigeria. What inflames the West, and frightens Africans, is that China is happy to hand out soft credit to some of the continent’s most corrupt and despotic leaders.
The Telegraph quotes Zainab Bangura, head of Sierra Leone’s National Accountability Group: “We’ve spent 15 years working on conventions against corruption and now the Chinese come in and they haven’t signed up to any of it”. China’s moves also instantly undercut all humanitarian efforts by everyone from Oxfam to Geldorf.
Africa is in the box seat. The superpowers have come a-courting, and stellar growth awaits akin to that of the Asian tigers last decade. South African president Thabo Mbeki has warned of a new slide into colonial subservience.
The Telegraph reports China – not totally oblivious to the effect of its manoeuvres – has discreetly approached the British Foreign Office for PR advice, but reporter Ambrose Evans Pritchard notes:
“But this is the same government that is fast building an offensive navy spearheaded by 50 attack submarines – unsettling Japan – and that has just smashed a satellite in space with a kinetic missile – unsettling America.”
It seems the Cold War did not fall with the Berlin Wall.