China-US Rivalry in Africa (I)


Only a fool would argue about how rich Africa is. And it really is, as evidenced by the interest shown by Europe, the United States, Russia and China. But Europe has its own problems: the European Union is trying to solve the migration crisis. Russia is stuck in Ukraine and the whole country is working to win, it is not ready to develop economic relations with Africa, but the Americans and the Chinese – yes! It is here, on this very continent, that the interests of the two largest powers of our time will clash. Let’s see which areas will be affected.

Firstly, it is metallurgy. Both China and the United States are competing in the electric car manufacturing market. If Tesla used to be the unequivocal leader, recently it has been the Chinese who have taken the lead both in technology and in the availability of manufactured electric vehicles. This allows to win not so much the minds as the hearts of the consumer. These cars are very specific, but much cheaper than American ones. At the same time, according to experts, six to seven times more mineral resources are required to create electric vehicles than to create cars with an internal combustion engine.

The same applies to renewable energy sources, the components of which contain rare materials that are found in abundance only in Africa: lithium, cobalt, manganese, gallium, indium, graphite, zinc, chromium… It is at the expense of the Dark continent that China wants to carry out its energy transformation, since the metals of this group represent the basis for technological developments in the fuel and energy complex. For example, for the construction of a wind power plant, nine times more components produced from critical metals are needed than for standard thermal power plants.

Since 2010, there has been a 50% increase in demand for rare earth metals in the world. Given the current trends, this indicator will continue to rise. It is the extraction of rare earth metals and their proper use that can lead our world to the goals set in the Paris Agreement. However, according to experts, in order to achieve the indicators by 2040, it is necessary to increase the production of rare earth metals by 4 times. The development of green technologies will lead to an increase in demand for lithium (42 times), graphite (25 times) and cobalt (21 times). Predictably, it is the most developed countries that will experience the greatest need for such metals. That is why Washington and Beijing, as the largest proponents and manufacturers of modern devices, whose components include the very same metals, strive to occupy the necessary niche as soon as possible. This is necessary to ensure the growth of the country’s economy in the difficult 21st century.

Africa has a certain place in the 2022 US National Security Strategy. Joe Biden, as a true Democrat, is betting on energy security in the face of climate change. The United States is striving to put not only itself, but also Europe on the rails of carbon-free energy, which could reduce the continent’s dependence on Russia. As we see today, such aspirations are completely hopeless.

Green energy is not able to properly provide electrification of heavy industry in Germany, which is why there is a recession in Germany today, and production is being transferred either to the United States or to China, where there are relatively cheap fossil resources and preferential credit conditions when transferring production from the country. Frankly speaking, on the part of the United States, this all looks more like a cunning plan to bleed Europe dry than a desire to achieve carbon neutrality. These goals were set, among other things, in the legislative acts of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Build Back Better Act, and Inflation Reduction Act. It is with these documents that the strategic goal of the United States is linked to take the first place in the production of electric vehicles in the world by 2030 and reduce CO2 emissions by 40% by 2040.

The overwhelming number of scientists and politicians says that the United States is not able to independently provide itself with mineral raw materials for the necessary technological breakthrough. That’s why Washington needs Africa. This fact was noted by Donald Trump in his decree 13953 of September 30, 2020. It says that the United States is heavily dependent on imports of graphite and gallium (100% imported) and barite (75% imported). Yes, Washington has lithium reserves of almost 8 million tons, but only 750 thousand tons are recoverable.

The situation for Washington is also very bad because China is not only increasing the production of “green” energy (in recent years, the amount of this type energy produced has exceeded similar figures in the United States by 3 times), but also supplies 11 out of 50 rare earth metals to the United States. In 8 of these 11 metals, the United States depends on China for more than 50%. That is why the United States is seeking to diversify its supply sources and is targeting Africa as an alternative source of such resources. After all, if China cuts off supplies to the Americans, the United States will not be able to get ahead of Beijing and take a leading place in the development of renewable energy and clean energy generation.

to be continued

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