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Obama’s view on driving on Chinese-built Thika road

During a televised interview on American TV before leaving the United States, President Barack Obama talked about coming to Kenya and driving on Kenyan roads built by the Chinese.

He was asked about visiting the African Union building that was also built by the Chinese, and funded by the Chinese.

Obama said that it was true that China has over the last several years, because of the surplus that they’ve accumulated in global trade and the fact that they’re not accountable to their constituencies, have been able to funnel an awful lot of money into Africa, basically in exchange for raw materials that are being extracted from Africa.

He added that what was certainly true is that the United States has to have a presence to promote the values that it cares about.

“We welcome Chinese aid into Africa. I think that’s a good thing. We don’t want to discourage it,” Obama said.

He continued to say that what he wants is to make sure that trade is benefiting the ordinary Kenyan, Ethiopian and Guinean – not just a few elites – as well as the Chinese who then get the resources that they need.

HEAVY INVESTMENT

“I think that we can help to shape an agenda where China, Europe, and the United States are all working together in order to address some of these issues,” Obama said.

For nearly a decade China has made its presence felt in Africa. They have invested heavily in the continent and made historic push for business opportunities and expanded influence in Africa, most of the continent’s leaders are so thrilled at having a deep-pocketed partner willing to make big investments and start huge projects that they rarely pause to consider whether they are getting a sound deal.

China has peppered the continent with newly built stadiums, airports, hospitals, highways and dams, but Africans are beginning to fully recognize, these projects have also left many countries saddled with heavy debts and other problems, from environmental conflict to labor strife.

As a result, China’s relationship with the continent is entering a new and much more skeptical phase.

The best way for the United States and other rich countries that have economic and political interests in Africa to respond is not by warning Africa about the advance of China but rather, helping to strengthen African civil society and, thereby, governance.

In the end, though, what will minimize any downsides of China’s involvement in Africa is the deepening of African democracy.