As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton starts her tour of Africa with a visit to Senegal, analysts say the seven-nation trip is meant to counter China's growing influence in the resource-rich continent.
Throughout her 10-day trip, the State Department says Clinton will highlight U.S. plans to strengthen democratic institutions, expand development, spur economic growth, and advance peace and security in Africa.
But analysts, including American University professor Emilio Viano, told VOA that part of that strategy involves challenging the role of China, which last month announced massive new investment across the rapidly growing continent.
“China is looking for guaranteed sources of resources…and, therefore, it has a major presence in many African countries. This is of concern to the U.S., first of all, because of competitive reasons.”
At a summit between African and Chinese leaders in Beijing in July, China pledged $20 billion in new loans to Africa over the next three years – double the amount it offered during the previous three year period.
Trade between China and African countries has surged as Beijing looks for resources to fuel its economic boom, reaching a record $166 billion last year.
Viano says Washington does not want to lose out on important business interests in Africa, which is home to some of the world's fastest growing economies.
“The U.S. wants to use this [visit] as a maneuver to limit the influence of China. This will not be done openly; it will be done, of course, diplomatically without naming names, but certainly cautioning African leaders not to strike deals too easily with China.”
He says it appears that Washington wants to change what he calls the country's neglect of Africa, which he says started during the administration of former President George W. Bush.
The trip, which is seen as part of President Barack Obama's recently announced strategy toward sub-Saharan Africa, will take Clinton to Senegal, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, and Ghana.
Democracy promotion and human rights also figure to be prominent themes during Secretary Clinton's trip. Many have accused China of overlooking human rights issues during its rapid expansion of investment across Africa, leading to concerns of labor abuses and corruption within Chinese-owned companies.