Home » How US Plans to Rival China’s Influence in Africa’s Mining Sector

How US Plans to Rival China’s Influence in Africa’s Mining Sector

A test case for the US’s alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative

by Motoni Olodun

The US is stepping up its efforts to compete with China in the lucrative and strategic mining sector in Africa, where the Asian giant has been investing heavily for decades. The Biden administration has launched a flagship initiative to revitalize a century-old rail line that connects key African mines to an Atlantic Ocean port known as the Lobito corridor. The project aims to offer a faster and cheaper route for exporting minerals that are essential for the production of batteries and other renewable energy components.

The Lobito corridor is part of a broader plan by the US and its allies to invest $600 billion in infrastructure projects in developing countries over the next five years as an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which has seen Beijing pour almost $1 trillion into roads, railways, ports, and power plants across the globe. The US hopes to leverage its diplomatic and financial clout to secure access to critical minerals and markets, as well as to counter China’s growing influence and presence in Africa.

However, the US faces many challenges and risks in its ambitious venture. China has a long history and deep ties with many African countries and has built a dominant position in the continent’s mining industry. China controls much of Congo’s copper production, which accounts for more than 70% of the world’s cobalt supply, a key ingredient for electric vehicles. China also has a strong foothold in Zambia, the second-largest copper producer in Africa, where it has invested billions of dollars in mines, smelters, and refineries.

Moreover, the US will have to contend with the complex political and economic realities of the region, where instability, corruption, and poverty are rampant. The Lobito corridor crosses three countries: Angola, Congo, and Zambia, each with its own challenges and interests. The US will have to navigate the delicate balance of power and interests among these countries, as well as the local communities and stakeholders affected by the project. The US will also have to ensure that its investments are transparent, accountable, and sustainable and adhere to high environmental and social standards.

The US is not alone in its quest to challenge China’s dominance in Africa’s mining sector. Other countries, such as Japan, Australia, and Canada, are also eyeing the opportunities and potential of the continent’s rich mineral resources. Some of them have partnered with the US in its infrastructure initiative, while others have pursued their own bilateral or multilateral deals. The competition for Africa’s minerals will likely intensify in the coming years as the global demand for clean energy and technology grows.

The US has much to gain from its involvement in Africa’s mining sector but also a lot to lose if it fails to deliver on its promises and expectations. The Lobito corridor project is a test case for the US’s ability and willingness to offer a viable and attractive alternative to China’s model of engagement in Africa. If successful, the project could pave the way for more cooperation and development in the region and boost the US’s reputation and influence in Africa and beyond. If not, the project could backfire and undermine the US’s credibility and interests in the continent.

Source: Mining Weekly


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