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2022 | Book

The Political Economy of China—US Relations

Digital Futures and African Agency

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About this book

This book offers a rich perspective on Africa’s agency in the changing global order marked by intense geopolitical contestations. It discusses ways in which the African continent has been on the margins of the global economic system because of the actions of major powers and Africa’s own leaders, and how this legacy can be overcome. The book covers an uncharted ground in analyzing the intersection between geopolitical rivalry, digital futures, and Africa’s place in the world. This text makes a clarion call for African leaders and citizens to define better development pathways for the continent through insisting on ethical and transformation leadership as well as building credible institutions that are inclusive. This, according to the author, will ensure a sounder basis for Africa’s positive agency. Further, the book makes a strong case for structural transformation that is innovation-led, and that African decision-makers should leverage US-China rivalries to achieve Africa’s own development interests.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

Imperfections of the International Liberal Order and Africa’s Plight

Frontmatter
Chapter 1. The Liberal Internationalist Order and Its Discontents
Abstract
This chapter discusses the evolution of the Liberal Internationalist order at the end of World War Two. It makes a case that the liberal internationalist order that emerged was not kind to the plight of African countries. Even in the postcolonial aftermath, major powers showed less interest in facilitating Africa’s beneficial integration into the global system. America’s normative dissonance comes under a sharp spotlight in this chapter. America’s claim to global leadership on the basis of liberal values is stridently questioned. Further the chapter sets outlines for shaping Africa’s agency in the global system.
Mzukisi Qobo
Chapter 2. Africa and Defective Multilateralism
Abstract
In examining the defects of multilateralism, this chapter critiques the foundations of the international monetary system for marginalizing the interests of developing countries. The various counter-movements that advanced the case for recognition of developing countries’ interests in the 1960s and 1970s bore testimony to the structural exclusion of developing countries in agenda-setting of multilateral institutions. This exclusion took the form of foreclosing substantive discussions on the relationship between monetary institutions and economic development concerns of developing countries. This chapter shows how the outlines of this structural exclusion have persisted to the present development.
Mzukisi Qobo
Chapter 3. Africa in the Multilateral Trading System
Abstract
This chapter extends the analysis of the multilateral institutions undertaken in Chapter 2, and takes a closer look at the evolution of the global trading system and exclusion of developing countries and Africa from agenda-setting processes. The fundamental defect of this system lies in its failure to support African countries from diversifying the economic base and building export competitiveness beyond primary products. The structural power of leading economies have contributed to eroding the platform for a positive African agency by making onerous liberalization demands without offering meaningful special and differential treatment to African countries.
Mzukisi Qobo

Africa as a Theatre for Major Power Rivalries

Frontmatter
Chapter 4. Implications of China–US Rivalry on Africa
Abstract
This chapter looks at the role of Africa’s elites in constraining the continent’s development prospects. This discussion considers Africa’s position in the early years of decolonization and against the backdrop of the Cold War. It makes an observation that at the height of decolonization, Africans placed too much faith on the postcolonial elites and their ability to turn ideology into practice. These elites promised a political kingdom that would create an economic nirvana, but never had to account for its failure to materialize. Much of the focus in this chapter is on Africa’s failure to bolster its agency during the Cold War. The chapter also traces the United States and China’s engagements on the African continent, and points to the lessons African countries could draw from this history in reorienting their relations with major powers on better terms.
Mzukisi Qobo
Chapter 5. The Evolution of US–Africa Relations: From Idealism to Realpolitik
Abstract
Building on the thematic area of Africa and multilateral institutions in the previous two chapters, this section discusses the evolution of US foreign policy towards Africa since decolonisation, and the precise role that race relations, the Cold War, and alliance structures, played in US foreign policy calculus. It advances the argument that America lacked progressive historical themes to shape a positive engagement with the African continent, and therefore the claims about its positive hegemony in giving birth to a liberal internationalist order are exaggerated. The celebration of America as an enlightened hegemon in the post-war era is unmerited given its poor record in opposing colonialism and resolving race tensions within. This chapters shows that it was the hierarchy of race, and not just the Cold War calculations, that was the key lens through which the US administration viewed the African continent.
Mzukisi Qobo
Chapter 6. US–Africa’s Engagement from Clinton to Trump
Abstract
This chapter broadens the historical canvass to provide an assessment of US foreign policy toward Africa at a defined period of time—from Clinton to Trump. Clinton’s era followed a period of neglect of Africa in US foreign policy, and elevated commercial diplomacy. This was also a testing period for America’s post-Cold War foreign policy. Clinton’s ascendance coincided with the vogue of globalization, and his commercial diplomacy thrust dovetailed with the spirit of the times, especially the renewed confidence of US multinational companies that were raring to go abroad. Donald Trump would later cash in political capital on the back of the disintegration of globalization, which deepened fissures between the elites—the beneficiaries of globalization—and those at the bottom who saw international openness as stacked against their interests.
Mzukisi Qobo

Digital Futures and African Agency

Frontmatter
Chapter 7. Paradigms, Inclusive Institutions, and Structural Transformation
Abstract
This chapter looks at Africa’s future beyond being just a pawn on the chessboard of major power rivalries. It also considers pathways to economic development beyond the linear, modernization, approaches of slowly treading the stages of development from agriculture to manufacturing to services, to consider the role of technology in expanding possibilities for prosperity in the continent. This chapter draws on scholarship on structural diversification and innovation to propose a rethink of Africa’s development path. It also highlights lessons from the experiences of other countries that chartered their own development path.
Mzukisi Qobo
Chapter 8. Africa’s Digital Futures
Abstract
What will it take for the African continent to make leaps of innovation and ride the wave of digital transformation? This chapter, building on the previous one, considers the meaning of digital transformation for the African continent. It examines the role of government in improving the ecosystem of the digital economy and assesses the kinds of initiatives that are required to place the African continent on a sustained innovation path. It also evaluates various constraints facing many African countries and proposes strategies to overcome these. To build a positive agency, African countries will need to shore up domestic institutional capabilities, improve their production profile, take a leap in innovation, and negotiate with external partners on a sounder institutional and economic basis.
Mzukisi Qobo
Chapter 9. US–China Tech Wars: Shaping Africa’s Agency
Abstract
This chapter discusses the growing digitalization and increasing use of AI tools against the backdrop of geopolitical contestations between America and China, and asks questions about the likely impact of this tech war on Africa’s digital pathways. The chapter contends that African governments should strenuously safeguard their right to choose from the broadest possible range of foreign policy partners and technology options that suit their countries’ digital needs, including 5G networks, based on objective criteria that serve their development needs rather than the interests of foreign suppliers. Importantly, African countries need to build robust digital infrastructure and upgrade human capital if they want to integrate meaningfully in the global economy.
Mzukisi Qobo
Backmatter
Metadata
Title
The Political Economy of China—US Relations
Author
Mzukisi Qobo
Copyright Year
2022
Electronic ISBN
978-3-030-86410-1
Print ISBN
978-3-030-86409-5
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-86410-1

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