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Africa Of Key Strategic Importance To U.s., World, Scholar Says

Published by MAC on 2006-03-07

Africa of Key Strategic Importance to U.S., World, Scholar Says

United States Department of State (Washington, DC)

7th March 2006

Posted to the web 8th March 2006

by Charles W. Corey, Washington, DC

Africa has evolved into a region of key strategic importance to the United States, China and many other countries worldwide as a supplier of energy and natural resources.

Brett D. Schaefer, a research fellow in regulatory affairs at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, made that point March 7 at a conference entitled "Chinese Influence: Expanding in Both Africa and Latin America."

The fact that both the Chinese and U.S. governments are discussing

Africa, along with Latin America, as a major area for investment, Schaefer told his foreign affairs audience, clearly shows Africa's ever-growing importance. "Fifteen to 20 years ago, Africa would not have been here" as a discussion topic on such a panel, he said.

"Africa is increasingly important to the United States as a source of oil," he said. In 2005, Africa supplied the United States with 18 percent of its oil imports -- more than the United States presently imports from the Middle East.U.S. oil imports from sub-Saharan Africa have increased by a third since 1999, while imports from the Persian Gulf have decreased. As a result, he said, "the importance of Africa as a source for petroleum and the import of oil cannot be overestimated."

Within the next decade, Schaefer predicted, Africa's oil exports will double. The scholar cited forecasts that say U.S. imports of African oil will rise from their present level of 18 percent to 25 percent -- so one-quarter of all U.S. oil imports are expected to come from Africa in the not-too-distant future.Increasingly, he said, instability and humanitarian crises, such as the situation in the Darfur region of Sudan, are getting more attention from the United States -- first on humanitarian grounds, but also because of strategic interests.

Additionally, he said, the War on Terror has made Africa more important. "As a battleground on the war on terror, sub-Saharan Africa is increasingly vulnerable to radical Islam, which," he said, "has been trying to spread its influence across the Sahel and eastern Africa," as evidenced by the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Additionally, he said, Africa is important because its countries make up a large bloc at the United Nations and in international fora like the World Trade Organization, and therefore merit closer attention from the United States.


With regard to China's influence on Africa, Schaefer said China now has surpassed the United States as the world's largest consumer of many raw materials, ranks as the world's second-largest importer of oil and accounts for 31 percent of growth in global oil demand -- and thus is looking to Africa for these resources.

"China's emergence as a significant player on the economic scene, with its seemingly inexhaustible demand for raw materials, natural resources and oil, presents a significant challenge for the United States," he said, since the United States "is increasingly relying on the region for a lot of these materials" as well.

China is now active in every part of Africa, Schaefer told his audience. China's national oil company, he said, is especially active in Sudan, where it has built a pipeline to the Red Sea and a refinery outside Khartoum. It also controls most of an oil field in southern Darfur.

Besides Sudan, Schaefer said, China is active in Angola, where it provided a $2 billion aid package to secure oil rights and recently signed a crude oil purchase agreement for 30,000 barrels of oil a day for the next five years.

In Zambia, Schaefer said, China has invested $170 million in the copper-mining sector. China is investing in cobalt and copper activities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is harvesting timber in Gabon and Liberia and is heavily involved in Zimbabwe as well.

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