The US-China geopolitical rivalry could harm Africa. As in the case of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, when African countries were treated like pawns on a global chessboard, African countries risked being caught up in the current US-China geopolitical tensions. These are intensifying since the COVID-19 pandemic as many states in Africa face their worst socio-economic crisis since independence, as well as a sovereign debt crisis not seen since the 1980s . Africa is institutionally vulnerable to the combined effects of these developments. In part, this is due to persistent governance deficiencies, a constrained global business environment and economically underperforming across the continent. And in part, this is due to Africa’s marginal position in the global system. This article outlines Africa’s potential growth pathways against this harsh backdrop, assessing African agency’s options in response to ongoing geopolitical rivalries in technology, global supply chains and trade.
This article focuses on the African agency in response to the three main theaters of engagement that define the US-China geopolitical rivalry, namely technology, global supply chains and trade. How does this superpower friction affect the African continent, especially in the present, post-COVID-19 pandemic era? Discussions of US-China geopolitical rivalry must also take into account other factors that have caused tremors in the global order, for example the Russia-Ukraine war. Both the pandemic and the conflict in Eurasia have adversely affected the global economy and disrupted global supply chains with attendant macro-economic shocks. However, specific events related to the Russia–Ukraine war are beyond the scope of this work, which focuses on the period between late 2018 and 2021. These years include an assessment of US policy under President Donald Trump’s administration and in the early years. President Joe Biden’s administration. Historical context is included where relevant to the discussion of African agency and geopolitics.
Because events surrounding the US–China geopolitical rivalry are constantly evolving, long-range analysis is highly speculative. US-China tensions are deep-seated and multi-faceted, as they are rooted in disputes over trade and technological supremacy. However, historical context helps contextualise current frictions. The authors borrow from conceptual frameworks that consider the use of structural power in international relations with three focal areas of technology, global supply chains and trade, to analyze how these geopolitical tensions could potentially affect the African continent. and discuss how the continent can respond. , What agency is displayed in actual and potential behavior along the three focal areas of African actors?
Thus, this article makes three contributions. First, it underscores the development of geopolitical tensions between China and the US, particularly in the areas of technology, global supply chains and trade. Second, it explores the manifestations of these tensions in those three regions for many different types of African actors, particularly in the post-COVID-19 context. Third, it shows how these African actors exercised or could exercise agency in their given circumstances. Finally, the authors draw away the key lessons and draw conclusions. The main observations arising from this analysis are that there is an inevitable change in the underlying structure of global power, that this change will create stress on multilateral institutions and will undoubtedly affect the African continent, and that African countries need to carve out and Project your agency optimally to ensure optimal outcomes for Africa from those global power shifts.