Hillary Clinton’s Africa trip has many outside the continent buzzing after the Secretary of State leveled some pointed criticism at China. Speaking on China’s increasing dealings with African countries, Clinton had a sharp warning for Zambia.
“…concerned that China’s foreign assistance and investment practices in Africa have not always been consistent with generally accepted international norms of transparency and good governance.”
Going further, Clinton likened China’s expansion on the continent to colonialism, saying:
“We saw that during colonial times, it is easy to come in, take out natural resources, pay off leaders and leave…And when you leave, you don’t leave much behind for the people who are there. We don’t want to see a new colonialism in Africa.”
Not everyone seemed moved by Clinton’s admonitions on relations with the Chinese. Zambian President Rupiah Banda told reporters:
“Our country has been with a close relationship with China as early as before our independence…We work closely with the Chinese, as with any other country that supported our desire to be independent.”
Hillary Clinton is only the third Secretary of State to visit Zambia since the country declared its independence in 1964. The last Secretary before Clinton to visit Zambia was Henry Kissenger in 1976. Though the U.S. has not always placed the country high on its foreign affair agenda, Clinton said that Zambia remains an important part of the State Department’s focus.
When asked if she say China as a potential model for governance for African countries, Clinton bluntly replied:
“In the long-run, medium-run, even short-run, no I don’t.”
In addition to her commentary on China, Clinton was in Zambia to address trade and diplomatic relations between the landlocked south African nation. There is much debate between the two countries on the most mutually beneficial economic policies, with many in Zambia saying the U.S. trade policies have been a one-way street.
Clinton acknowledged the shortcomings of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which has been the cornerstone of U.S. economic policy on the continent for over ten years. The act, which gives 37 African countries trade preferences for U.S. exported goods such as textiles, has largely been criticized as a mechanism to boost oil trading.
Currently, African countries account for only 3 percent of all U.S. imports and 1 percent of all U.S. exports. Set to expire in 2015, many aid groups and lobbyists are calling for major changes to the AGOA bill should the U.S. Congress vote to extend it.