The New Scramble for Africa

April 14, 2023

Dear Friends,

The past few weeks have been filled with greater attention on the African continent. Vice President Kamala Harris sealed her trip to Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia by reaffirming the United States’ focal shift from “aid to trade” with Africa. Headlines and social media feeds were filled with images of African dignitaries welcoming Vice President Harris with great zeal. There were videos abounding with public statements about the reinvigoration of US-Africa relations with new, progressive, political energy and partnership across Africa’s public, private, and civil sectors.

However, skepticism about the current US-Africa rhetoric persists. Policy experts assert that the Biden Administration’s current efforts are generally reactive to China and Russia’s significant investment and influence on the continent. As Abdi Latif Dahir of The New York Times referenced in an episode of The Daily worth listening to, the U.S. has traditionally engaged the African continent as “a problem to be solved, rather than as a strategic partner.” It is because of this posturing, that the United States appears to be playing catch up in what is becoming known as the “New Scramble for Africa.”

Our attention at The Africa Center is on placing African interests and African people as the focus of these discussions. If indeed Africa is the future, which most foreign policy experts agree that it is, what will it take to ensure that the continent benefits from the terms of its present-day relationships across the geopolitical landscape? What critiques must be made about the restructuring of economic agreements so that the balance of power is shifted away from Western or Eastern players and tipped toward the continent? How can more leaders within the African public, private sectors, and civil sectors work together to ensure good governance, so that African citizens benefit from long-term visioning needed for their communities to flourish? Instead of solely asking what gains the United States, China, and Russia are making from their influence in Africa, we must also ask how Africa gains from its influence on these nations.

It’s this subtle, but critical repositioning that is key to the discourse we advance in our programs on policy, culture, and economics at the Center. These are the types of exchanges that we invite you to participate in as members of our community.

We hope you’ll join us for a screening of investigative documentary New Boats on Thursday, April 20th followed by a discussion between the film’s director, Lansana Mansaray and Tunde Olatunji, Associate Director of Policy at The Africa Center. The film explores the harmful impacts of international industrialized fishing on Sierra Leone’s local fishermen and their communities. We also invite you to join us on April 26th for African Modernisms: A Legacy of Connection, a conversation with three curators about their current exhibitions focusing on African modernism, exploring creative exchanges between artists working in Africa and the United States in the 1950s–70s.

I’d also like to note that this Saturday, April 15 will be the final day for you to see our Black Lives Matter tribute on The Africa Center Plaza. This installation marked an important moment for our community as we joined the call for greater recognition of the unjust deaths of Black people in America and around the world, often while being detained by law enforcement, and for greater accountability for those responsible for these crimes within the criminal justice system. Many of you have stopped by to participate in this tribute by using our memorial to reflect on the ways in which people of African descent, no matter our nationality or point of ancestral origin, continue to affirm our humanity together.

With the many conversations happening about and around Africa these days, it is an incredibly exciting time for us and The Africa Center’s growing global community. We appreciate your continued participation, commitment, and support of our work and our mission to make sure that African voices are included within these discussions.

We look forward to seeing you at the Center very soon.

In solidarity,