The United States has cautioned the Nigerian government to be wary of the growing influence of China.
The warning came from the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken on Tuesday.
Blinken spoke during a virtual meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari and his Kenyan counterpart. Specifically, he cautioned Africa to beware of China’s growing role on the continent; even as he vowed greater US commitment to Nigeria and Kenya.
The session was billed as a virtual trip to both countries due to COVID-19 restrictions; with the top US diplomat holding talks with both presidents and virtually touring sites; including a US-funded mobile hospital and renewable energy project.
Blinken warned African nations to keep their ”eyes wide open’’ in all their relationships with the Asian giant.
“We’re not asking anyone to choose between the United States or China. But I would encourage you to ask those tough questions, to dig beneath the surface; to demand transparency and to make informed choices about what is best for you and your countries,” Blinken said.
He stated this while responding to questions from young Africans who have studied in the United States.
Furthermore, Blinken pointed to issues faced by some African nations who have racked up unsustainable debts after taking Chinese loans.
“You should be looking hard at whether when other countries come in to build a big infrastructure project. Are they bringing their own workers with them or are they giving jobs to people in the country where they’re making investments?” Blinken asked.
Equally important, the diplomat seized the opportunity to talk up the US as a more reliable ally.
“We believe in Africa. We believe in the extraordinary potential. Your success is our success. We want to invest in it but in the right way,’’ he said.
The United States and China have had an increasingly fractious relationship; with the administration of former President Donald Trump openly embarking on a trade war with the Asian country. China has recently ramped up its focus and investments in Africa; a development that has caught the attention of the US.
President Joe Biden, unlike Trump, has shown an early interest in Africa. His predecessor, Trump, was the first US president in decades not to visit Africa while in office. He was also quoted to have made some derogatory comments about African countries, including Nigeria.
Speaking during the session, President Buhari expressed gratitude to Biden for easing the harsh visa restrictions to the United States imposed by Trump. In addition, he promised to step up close security collaborations with the United States on hotspots including the Sahel.
“Nigeria and our security forces remain resolutely committed to continue them and addressing the root causes. The support for important and strategic partners like the United States cannot be overstated,” Buhari stated.