Two Points on Secretary Clinton’s Tour of Africa [Updated]

Yesterday United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton kicked off her 2012 tour of Africa. Today she is in Senegal, where she is expected to give a speech about China that does not name China. Other scheduled stops on the tour include South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, and Ghana.

Press coverage of the tour has emphasized three issues: terrorism, Chinese economic influence in Africa, and democracy. Let’s leave the first of those aside for this post. I have just two brief points to make:

  1. American rhetoric will not deter African countries from accepting Chinese investment. However forceful the Secretary’s speeches, however persuasive her arguments, African countries will continue to partner with China. Money will speak louder than words.
  2. Democratic achievements sometimes seem firmer in the present than they do in hindsight. I too applaud Senegal’s democratic transfer of power from one leader to another. I applaud Malawi’s peaceful succession process, and Ghana’s. But each country’s trajectory is different, and today’s democrat may become tomorrow’s autocrat. Defeated Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade earned plaudits as a democrat when he came to office in 2000, only to become another leader seeking an exemption to term limits by 2012.  I am not saying that Senegal, Malawi, and Ghana are headed for autocracy, but I am saying that “democratization” often proves fragile.

What do you expect from Secretary Clinton’s visit? What significance do you see in her choice of destinations?

[UPDATE]: Find the transcript of Sec. Clinton’s remarks in Dakar here. An excerpt:

Africa needs partnership, not patronage. And we have tried to build on that challenge. And throughout my trip across Africa this week, I will be talking about what it means, about a model of sustainable partnership that adds value rather than extracts it. That’s America’s commitment to Africa.

[…]

So the links between democracy and development is a defining element of the American model of partnership. And I acknowledge that in the past our policies did not always line up with our principles. But today, we are building relationships here in West Africa and across the continent that are not transactional or transitory. They are built to last. And they’re built on a foundation of shared democratic values and respect for the universal human rights of every man and woman. We want to add value to our partners, and we want to add value to people’s lives. So the United States will stand up for democracy and universal human rights, even when it might be easier or more profitable to look the other way, to keep the resources flowing. Not every partner makes that choice, but we do and we will.

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11 thoughts on “Two Points on Secretary Clinton’s Tour of Africa [Updated]

  1. Very true very true, time will tell and history will be the judge.
    Every country I’ve been to in Africa I have seen the same thing, Chinese present and striping the resources, they sign a contract and expect nothing but what is in it. No strings attached. Much different from the US approach.

    • Say you’re hit by a car:

      1. someone rushes in and starts lecturing you on the good points of governance, rule of law, human rights , etc…. By the time you get it, you’re DEAD.

      2. Another rushes to the accident scene, complete with ambulances and team of doctors.  After mending your broken bones and sent home, the bill comes in and of you’re honest you will pay it when fully able to do do.

      Which one will you prefer? If you are the leader of improvised but resource -rich African country, you  know what to do.

      • And what if said doctor also tells you ‘you want to go and wipe out the family that’s preventing you from building on their land? We’ll supply the guns!’

  2. Also agree with your point on U.S.-Chinese economic dynamics. As for the need to “promote” or “lecture” on democracy, Washington brings many problems upon itself by undermining or overlooking violations of law in accordance with shifting self-interests. China isn’t weighed down with as much baggage of hypocrisy and fair-weather friendships, an appealing prospect for many African capitals.

  3. “Africa needs partnership, not patronage.” Clinton prefaced this with…”historically, Western powers had too often seen Africa as a source of resources to be exploited or as a charity cause in need of patronage.” China isn’t a Western power. How is China in this speech?

    The Chinese are actually developing economic partnerships, it’s the US that has gone the old handout patronage model.

    What Clinton did actually say further muddled the US stance on Mali. She said a democratically-elected government in Mali is needed. Yes, but how will the north vote? Doesn’t the north have to be liberated before a fully democratic government can happen? Bryan Simpson

    • Clinton will say the same things she said last year.

      The US isn’t doing anything new in Africa, that’s why Clinton’s visit isn’t significant and we are yawning.

      • One of the expected things from Secretary Clinton’s Nairobi meeting tomorrow is to inform the TFG leaders their time is up: leave honorably or face the full force of the law in light with the recent UN Report. Turkey will be one good spot for retirement for some. The new constitution needs new honest and capable leaders able to execute the delicate and tough matters of state building.  We hope madam secretary will not disappoint us tomorrow. 

  4. Pingback: The China/Africa Newswire for Friday, August 3 | The China Africa Project

  5. Pingback: The China/Africa Newswire for Friday, August 3 | The China Africa Project

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