The U.S., China, and Russia, three global ‘superpowers,’ enhance competition in Africa and are widely apparent to everyone. These nations have steadily increased their influence on the continent over the past few years. According to Afrobarometer statistics, African populations perceive China and the United States to have nearly equal influence.

The natural resources of the continent are the cause of this competition. These moves have been referred to by some as a potential “new scramble for Africa.” It is interesting to note that between 1881 and 1914, there was a race for Africa, which resulted in the division of the continent by certain powerful European countries.

The escalating land grabbing and exploitation of natural resources on the continent in the name of investment and trade are truly being played out among these superpowers in Africa, thanks to the increasing foreign military presence there under the pretext of combating counter-terrorism.

Here’s a look at the impact of these nations on the continent.

China’s influence

China has been engaged in operations in Africa for the past 20 years, expanding its influence across all spheres as it aims to increase its power on the continent. The country had the opportunity to expand its reach in the infrastructure development of Africa, particularly in Eastern and Southern African nations, when it launched the Belt and Road program in 2013.

China has persisted in its efforts to seize control of the African continent, earning the moniker “the new dominant superpower in Africa.” As the world’s second-largest economy, China has established itself as one of Africa’s most significant and powerful trading partners.

It should be mentioned that in 2000, trade between China and Africa totaled $10 billion. The benefits from commerce between these two partners significantly increased in the years that followed. Recently, Ghana has been attempting to have China discharge its debt due to the IMF bailout agreement. China has increased its influence on the continent during the past 20 years at the expense of all Western powers, including the former colonial powers. Additionally, China has made significant contributions to the infrastructural and technological development of Africa. 

Russia’s influence

Russia has undoubtedly participated in this competition. It has increased its influence in Africa more recently than any other outside force. Russia is spreading its influence across Central, Southern, and Eastern Africa. The operations of the Wagner Group in nations like Libya, Sudan, Mali, and the Central African Republic demonstrate the importance that Russia holds in those African nations. The organization assists military nations with training and equipment support.

Russia has been successful in forging solid diplomatic bonds with Africa. It is important to note that Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, said at the 2019 Africa-Russia Summit that Russia has a lot to offer to its African friends. Russia has had a significant influence on Africa’s economic and investment connections. As a key participant in its trading bloc, Russia seeks to strengthen economic ties with Africa in the same way that the US and China do. According to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 30% of Africa’s food supply comes from Russia.

USA’s influence

As one of the “Super Powers,” the US has made a concerted effort to become a major influence when it comes to international affairs in Africa. Regarding its rivalry with China on the continent, the US’s actions and omissions in Africa are open to public scrutiny. Even as Moscow joins in, Washington and Beijing have been the dominant players in the continent’s economy and politics. It is important to note that, in light of the US-Africa Summit held on November 15, 2022, the Biden Administration has further expanded its interest in Africa.

In terms of economic cooperation, the US and Africa have made significant investments. Following the investment peak in 2014, American foreign direct investment in Africa decreased to $44.81 billion in 2020 before increasing once again in 2021. In the areas of technology, humanitarian aid, and infrastructure development, the US has continued to expand its trade and investment prospects on the continent.

Although there have been rumors that the US’ involvement in Africa has diminished compared to earlier participation due to competition from China and Russia, the US has not relinquished its relationship with the continent to either of these countries. The US still stands tall when it comes to its deals in Africa, extending from the South, West, East, and even to the Central part of the continent.

Way forward for Africa

Africa is a continent that offers many social and economic prospects, characterized by abundant arable land and mineral resources. Comprising 55 recognized AU states, the continent has witnessed significant transitions despite challenges such as coups, terrorism, natural catastrophes, and political instability in recent years. These issues have hampered the continent’s progress and rendered many investments futile. Nevertheless, it has made noteworthy strides within the global community and has emerged resilient.

With ample opportunities and a skilled labor force, the continent remains an attractive destination despite economic, political, and social instability in certain regions. However, it is still grappling for a voice among the “Great Powers” despite its inherent advantages. Some individuals have even labeled these efforts as a “new scramble,” symbolizing the pursuit of power and influence.

Considering the aforementioned points, what does Africa still lack? While experts may hold varying opinions, it is evident that leadership plays a crucial role. Until Africa acknowledges the flaws in its leadership, it may continue to possess riches while desperately seeking means to survive, akin to “holding gold while begging for clay.”


**The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Diplomatic Insight. The organization neither endorses nor assumes any responsibility for the content of this article.