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Three Global Powers' Visions for Africa Collide at Crossroads

10 July 2023

The world is witnessing rapid changes among major countries. Russia's military intervention in Ukraine, the growing rivalry between the United States and China, and the rise of new middle powers all contribute to this change. Additionally, the simultaneous convening two global summits in May 2023, the G7 and China-Central Asia Summits, marks a significant turning point in the global system's trajectory since the Cold War.

We appear to be in a zero-sum game with winners and losers. Three future scenarios arise from predictions about the outcome of this tie between the world's most powerful countries. The first vision entails a revival of the American dream aiming to Americanize the international system through the formation of a united front against China, which poses a significant challenge to American hegemony. On the other hand, China has provided another alternative vision for a more equitable and multipolar international system since the turn of the millennium. The third vision presents an opportunity to Africanize the world, positioning Africa as the ultimate beneficiary amidst the ongoing transformations and polarizations within the current international system. This article seeks to analyze these three perspectives by shedding light on the objectives and repercussions of both summits on Africa.

I. The G7 Summit and the Americanization of the World

During the G7 Hiroshima Summit on May 19, 2023, the United States successfully convinced its European and Asian allies to adopt a united stance against China, given the latter's growing strength and influence in Central Asia. Although not explicitly mentioning China, the countries involved in the Summit condemned "economic coercion" and the "weaponization of trade." They also underlined their opposition to the use of force to change the status quo in the Indo-Pacific area, including the Taiwan Strait.

Efforts to limit China's access to advanced technology components were also emphasized in meetings between major chip manufacturers and leaders of Japan and South Korea. The aim was to convince chipmakers to relocate their production bases outside of China and decrease the supply of advanced technology components to the country. This action is part of an agreement reached earlier this year among the United States, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and the Netherlands. 

To oppose China's efforts to sever ties between the US and its European allies, the G7 countries emphasized the importance of improving "economic resilience and security." This Western economic alliance could attempt to prevent China's exploitation and manipulation of international investments and supply chains. The G7 leaders also stressed that China's adherence to international regulations will benefit the international community. In the same context, President Joe Biden emphasized the United States and its allies' united efforts to "de-risk and diversify" their approach to China. He also alluded to the potential of resuming direct communication with senior Chinese leaders. 

In terms of policies, the G7 countries agreed to invest $600 billion by 2027 in the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) to rival China's Belt and Road Initiative. This strategy seeks to counter China's influence on infrastructure projects, particularly those in Pacific Island countries. 

II. China and the Alternative World Order

In response, China hosted the first-ever China-Central Asia Summit, underscoring its expanding international influence. The five Central Asian countries pledged to collaborate with China to establish a fair world order and ensure the supply of critical commodities such as oil. It is no secret that this expansion strengthens China's regional influence.

The summit, which took place in Xi'an on May 18-19, 2023, aimed at strengthening China's political and economic ties with its Central Asian neighbors. With Xi'an as the eastern terminus of the ancient Silk Road, this significant landmark emphasizes the historical ties between China and Central Asia. China's Belt and Road Initiative has also increased the region's prominence, with China being Central Asia's major trading partner.

In Central Asia, China is forging alliances that align with its interests, leveraging significant regional organizations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the BRICS group of nations.

The China-Central Asia Summit demonstrated the importance of China's infrastructure projects and economic cooperation in the region. However, concerns are evident on Chinese social media regarding the financial aid provided to Central Asian countries, as it may potentially affect social benefits within China. Notably, President Xi Jinping's government made a significant move to diminish Russia's global influence by excluding Russian leaders from the China-Central Asia Summit. This decision possibly reflects China's reservations about fully supporting Russia's military involvement in Ukraine. 

III. Towards the Africanization of the Global System

The impact of the G7 Summit and the China-Central Asia Summit on Africa can be analyzed from various perspectives:

1- Economic repercussions: 

The unified policy adopted by the G7 countries to counter China's influence may indirectly impact Africa's economic relations with China. As the G7 countries seek to limit China's exploitation of foreign investment and supply chains, African countries with strong economic ties to China could face consequences. These restrictions may force a rethinking of China's investment and trade ties with African countries, potentially altering the dynamics of African-Chinese economic cooperation.

2- Developing infrastructure: 

As previously stated, the G7 commitment to invest $600 billion in the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment to rival China's Belt and Road Initiative could have implications on African infrastructure development. African countries have received significant infrastructure investment through this initiative, and the G7 alternative plan may present additional prospects for infrastructure projects in the region. Increased investment and rivalry between the G7 and China will likely benefit African countries, potentially leading to better infrastructure development.

3- Competition for influence: 

The G7's united stance against China's expanding global power and influence could create a sense of rivalry for influence in Africa. Both the G7 countries and China have taken part in various forms of soft power diplomacy, economic partnerships, and development projects in the African continent. The G-7 efforts to counter China's influence may intensify competition between the two sides, with African countries likely to gain more leverage in negotiating favorable terms and attracting investment. 

4- Possible shifts in foreign policy: 

The G7's condemnation of the so-called "economic coercion" and emphasis on a just world order may resonate with African countries that have faced similar issues in their relations with China. African countries could find themselves aligned with G7 countries' principles and policies, potentially leading to shifts in their foreign policy priorities and partnerships. In this scenario, African countries may become more cautious in their relations with China, seeking to strike a balance between economic cooperation and national interest protection.

5- Influences in regional dynamics: 

The outcomes of these two summits could have consequences on African regional dynamics. As the G-7 and its allies face China's growing influence, African countries may examine the power balance and alter their regional relationships accordingly. This has the potential to have an impact on regional institutions, economic agreements, and diplomatic alliances, potentially resulting in new geopolitical dynamics in Africa. This has the potential to have an impact on regional organizations, economic agreements, and diplomatic alliances, potentially resulting in new geopolitical dynamics in Africa.

Africa is anticipated to come out on top in this seemingly zero-sum fight between the US and China:

First, the rise of new middle powers such as India, Brazil, China, and some powerful Middle Eastern countries opens the door to expanded investment, trade, and partnerships with African countries. This could result in improved infrastructure, technological advancement, and increased market access for African goods and services.

Second, the rapid transitions among the major powers allow African countries to diversify their diplomatic and economic contacts. Africa may increase its power in negotiations and secure more favorable terms in international agreements by shifting its focus on strategic relationships in this evolving world order.

Third, the global transformation's emphasis on renewable energy, sustainable development, and digital technology provides a chance for Africa to advance its economic and social progress. African countries may encourage equitable growth and development through attracting investments in sustainable energy projects, digital infrastructure, and innovation.

Ultimately, it remains vital to recognize that the specific repercussions in Africa will be determined by how African countries react and adapt to these global developments. According to the Africanization of the global system's perspective, which appears more hopeful about Africa's involvement in reformulating the global system, Africa's position in the changing global landscape presents many opportunities for growth and development. The continent can benefit from emerging new middle powers, diversify its engagements, and embrace renewable energy and digital progress. By doing so, Africa can promote economic integration, advance technological progress, and increase its global influence for developing its nations and the rising of its people. Thus, the historical equation can be altered such that the African continent becomes an actor in remaking the global turmoil we have witnessed since the end of the Cold War. In short, Africa's involvement and its ability to benefit from its resources and alliances will define the breadth and type of the consequences of the G7 and China-Central Asia Summits.