John Bolton. Picture: REUTERS/JOSHUA ROBERTS
John Bolton. Picture: REUTERS/JOSHUA ROBERTS

Washington — The US plans to counter the rapidly expanding economic and political influence of China and Russia in Africa, where the two nations use corrupt business practices with little regard for the rule of law, according to prepared remarks on Thursday by US national security adviser John Bolton.

The US’s  number one priority will be developing economic ties with the region to create opportunities for American businesses and protect the independence of African countries, as well as US national security interests, he said in the prepared remarks.

“Great power competitors, namely China and Russia, are rapidly expanding their financial and political influence across Africa,” Bolton said. “They are deliberately and aggressively targeting their investments in the region to gain a competitive advantage over the US."

Bolton’s speech at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank, comes as US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jingping, leaders of the world’s two largest economies, seek to resolve trade disputes that have roiled global markets and created economic uncertainty.

“China uses bribes, opaque agreements, and the strategic use of debt to hold states in Africa captive to Beijing’s wishes and demands. Its investment ventures are riddled with corruption,” Bolton said.

Bolton had equally harsh words for Russia. “Across the continent, Russia advances its political and economic relationships with little regard for the rule of law or accountable and transparent governance,” he said.

He accused Moscow of selling arms and energy in exchange for votes at the UN, “votes that keep strongmen in power, undermine peace and security, and run counter to the best interests of the African people”.

China’s development policies in Africa have been a concern for Washington as the USseeks to ramp up development finance in the face of China’s global ambitions.

The head of the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (Opic) said in July that China is saddling poor nations with unsustainable debt through large-scale infrastructure projects that are not economically viable.

In October Trump signed legislation overhauling the way the federal government lends money for foreign development, creating a $60bn agency intended largely to respond to China’s growing influence. The new the US International Development Finance Corp combines Opic and other government development organisations.

Xi’s Belt and Road initiative, unveiled in 2013, aims to build an infrastructure network connecting China by land and sea to Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

Reuters