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National security adviser John Bolton speaks about the administration's Africa policy at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 13. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Last week, the Trump administration unveiled its new Africa strategy, prioritizing deeper economic ties, counterterrorism and the efficient use of U.S. aid. The strategy aims to counter Chinese and Russian interests on the continent, especially the former’s strategic use of debt to control African countries.

Why it matters: The strategy oversimplifies Africa’s debt situation. It fails to distinguish between good and bad debt and doesn’t address Africa’s debt levels on a country-by-country basis. This polarizing approach could alienate key potential African allies, leading them to further align with China.

Reality check:

  • Chinese debt is not driving the vast majority of African countries’ indebtedness. Only 8 out of 68 countries in the world are potentially facing unsustainable debt levels because of Belt and Road Initiative projects. In Africa, only Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya fall into this category.
  • Not all debt is created equal. Good debt fosters economic growth, thereby increasing the ability of African governments to repay their creditors. Spending to improve Africa’s poor infrastructure, for example, can be a good use of Chinese debt, as it drives future economic growth. Sub-Saharan Africa’s road and rail networks are some of the least developed in the world, and the region’s GDP per capita could increase by 1.7% if the quantity and quality of its infrastructure reached those of the world's median.

The bottom line: An effective development-oriented policy from the U.S. will require a more nuanced discussion of Africa’s debt and a recognition of the growth returns on infrastructure investment.

Paulo Gomes is the founder of Constelor Investment and a co-founder of New African Capital Partners.

Go deeper

Scoop: U.S. begins denying Afghan immigrants

Afghan refugees on a bus bound for temporary housing after arriving in Greece. Photo: Byron Smith/Getty Images

The Biden administration has begun issuing denials to Afghans seeking to emigrate to the United States through the humanitarian parole process, after a system that typically processes 2,000 applications annually has been flooded with more than 30,000.

Why it matters: Afghans face steeper odds and longer processes for escaping to the U.S., despite the earlier sweeping efforts by the Biden administration to assist its allies. Immigration lawyers and advocacy groups say the government has set untenable barriers to a safe haven in the U.S.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Dems invoke Robert Byrd to sell Manchin on Senate rules changes

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Diana Walker, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A small group of Senate Democrats is privately invoking the legacy of late West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd in an effort to sway Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to support their plans to change the chamber's rules, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Manchin — who holds Byrd's Senate seat — has often referenced his predecessor's strong moral conviction and insistence on preserving the Senate as an institution, as justification for some of his tough positions.

House votes to ban imports from Xinjiang over forced labor concerns

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The House voted 428-1 on Wednesday to pass a bill that would ban all imports from the Chinese region of Xinjiang unless the U.S. government determines that the products were not made with forced labor.

Why it matters: Both the Trump and Biden administrations, as well as several foreign parliaments, have recognized China's repression of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang as genocide.

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