FOCAC 2021 in Dakar, Senegal, and B3W — the U.S. counter to China’s BRI?

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The recently-concluded Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) meeting in Dakar, Senegal, generated surprisingly little international press coverage — except for a few stories that seized on what looked, at first blush, like a significant decrease in Beijing’s overall investment commitment on the continent. If Beijing sees a concerted effort by the U.S. and Europe to diminish, tarnish, or counteract China’s position in Africa, it might well be excused: Its triannual Sino-African love fest, after all, didn’t receive nearly as much attention as two problematic stories did: one centering on the alleged Chinese seizure of Uganda’s Entebbe Airport, and another claiming that China plans to build a military base in Equatorial Guinea — a base that could threaten the East Coast of the United States, as reports suggested.

And then there’s the U.S.-led “Build Back Better World” (B3W) initiative, which was launched at the G7 summit in June, and the European Commission’s own answer to China’s Belt and Road Initiative: the Global Gateway Strategy, which was announced on the final day of FOCAC. 

This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy speak with the Nairobi-based development economist Anzetse Were and Eric Olander, host of the China in Africa Podcast. They both have a lot to say about FOCAC coverage, media narratives on China in Africa, and the likelihood that programs like B3W and Global Gateway can move the needle when it comes to China’s position on the continent.

5:08 – Major takeaways from FOCAC 2021

7:19 – Just how much money did China commit this time?

15:57 – FOCAC 2021 as an inflection point in China-Africa relations

19:05 – Media disconnects on the China-Africa story and “psychological self-soothing”

23:33 – The mistaken reports on China’s alleged seizure of Entebbe Airport in Uganda

30:28 – The Wall Street Journal’s report on China’s alleged plans to build a military base in Equatorial Guinea

44:55 – China’s vaccine diplomacy in Africa

52:12 – B3W (Build Back Better World) and Global Gateway as counters to the BRI

A transcript of this episode is available on SupChina.com

Recommendations:

Jeremy: Political Pilgrims: Western Intellectuals in Search of the Good Society by Paul Hollander

Anzetse:  Market Power and Role of the Private Sector by the China-Africa Business Council; and “Africa’s economic transformation: the role of Chinese investment,” by Linda Calabrese and Xiaoyang Tang

Eric:  “Guānxì: Power, Networking, and Influence in China-Africa Relations,” by Paul Nantulya

Kaiser: Beware of Pity, a novel by Stefan Zweig