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A Hot Week In Africa Diplomacy

A Hot Week In Africa Diplomacy

Africa is hot these days – diplomatically speaking. UK Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are both hitting the road with multi-country visits to the continent this week, and next week Chinese President Xi Jinping will preside over a yearly China-Africa forum that brings representative from 53 of 54 African nations (all but Swaziland) to Beijing.


And why not? Africa is set to be the fastest growing region in the world economically over the coming decades. But the approaches of the UK, Germany, and China in the region also reveal interesting details about their broader global concerns and who, ultimately, is poised to prevail.

The UK, Going Global, Alone: On Tuesday, Theresa May arrived in South Africa for her first ever trip to the continent as prime minister. The purpose of the visit, which will also see her stop in Nigeria and Kenya (where no British prime minister has made an official visit in 30 years) is to solidify British commercial ties in Africa as part of a broader post-Brexit “Global Britain” plan. In a word, the UK is looking for new friends, economically. Skeptics back home have pointed out that collectively the economies of May’s three stops are smaller than the Netherlands. Others snickered at her awful, if not somewhat courageous, dancing. All in all, it’s hard to see Africa making a big dent in Britain’s post-Brexit economic blues.

Germany, Looking for a Quick Fix: Meanwhile, German Chancellor Merkel starts her own three-day visit to the continent today, with will include stops in Senegal, Nigeria, and Ghana. Merkel’s main aim is to negotiate the return of some of the 14,000 migrants from these three countries that currently reside in Germany without approval. Merkel, once the EU’s standard bearer in promoting development and investment to deal with the drivers of mass migration from Africa, has been forced onto the back foot by political forces in Germany and the EU. She’s now looking for quick fix to a long-term challenge.

China, A Grand Strategy: Then there is President Xi. Fresh off a trip to Senegal, Rwanda, South Africa, and Mauritius last month, the Chinese leader is now preparing for the opening of the annual Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing next week. In recent years, Chinese trade with region has ballooned—hitting $170 billion last year, four times larger than that between the US and Africa. Initially reliant on Africa for commodities exports, China has since expanded its investments into sectors such as construction and telecommunications. Despite some recent pushback, it has built ports, laid down miles of new railways, and established a bigger military foothold.

As Africa’s global economic and strategic footprint continue to grow, more countries will be eager to court new opportunities there. Beyond their choice of international partners, African leaders have plenty of domestic priorities to worry about – including elections next year in Nigeria and South Africa. The latest diplomatic flurry suggest that China, with its steady hand and long-term thinking, will continue to overshadow other contenders across the continent.

Meet Alessandra Cominetti, a recipient of MIT Technology Review Magazine's Innovators Under 35 award. As a lab technician at Eni's Research Centre for Renewable Energy in Novara, Alessandra has devoted her career to finding new solutions and materials to optimize solar energy. Much like the serendipitous encounter that resulted in her employment, her eagerness and willingness to try new things allowed her to stumble upon a material for the creation of portable solar panels.

Watch her remarkable story on the latest episode of Faces of Eni.

Joe Biden has vowed to radically change the US' approach to foreign policy and international diplomacy should he win next week's election.

But a lot has happened in four years under Donald Trump that could impede Biden's ability to simply return to the status quo ante. How different would US foreign policy really be under a Biden presidency? What will the two-term former vice president likely be able to change, and what's bound to remain the same, at least for now?

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Kevin Sneader, Global Managing Partner at McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on what corporate business leaders are thinking during the global coronavirus crisis

Should big business care about small business in these times?

The answer is yes and for many reasons. First, small business is the lifeblood of our economies. 45% of employment in emerging countries and 70% in the OECD comes from small and medium enterprises. Moreover, these enterprises have been badly hit by the crisis. Surveys indicate as many as 50% of European small to medium enterprises feel they may not survive over 12 months. While SMEs are relying on government support, larger companies do have a role to play. After all, this includes prioritizing small business and procurement by locking in demand for multiple years, thus facilitating access to good credit, paying receivables to small business in time and where possible, ahead of schedule. Cash flow matters most when you're small. Looking out for small businesses that have lower resilience. For example, financial institutions can lend more and in doing so, ensure deeper customer relationships in the future.

In his latest Financial Times op-ed, Martin Wolf argues that the US global role is at stake in this election and that a Trump re-election would undo America's legacy of democratic leadership in the world. Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group's Jeffrey Wright grabbed the Red Pen to argue that a Trump presidency exists in part because of Americans' rejection of the US's post-war leadership role, and these feelings run deeper than the article suggests.

Today, we're taking The Red Pen to a recent op-ed published in The Financial Times from my good friend, the chief economics commentator Martin Wolf. Martin argues the global role of the United States is at stake on November 3rd, and that a Trump reelection would undo America's legacy of democratic leadership in the world. There's been a lot of this sort of thing recently. I know, we did it once, but if we do it twice, it's all over and I'm not there. To be clear, we don't totally reject what Martin is presenting in this piece. Rather, we'd argue that a Trump presidency exists because there were feelings that were present in the United States before he came along and they run a lot deeper than the article suggests. In other words, it's really not all about Trump.

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"The top priority will be to announce to the world that the United States they've known for decades is back." Former top Obama diplomat and current CEO of the think tank New America Anne-Marie slaughter predicts an American revival on the global stage if Joe Biden wins the presidency. But at a time when the United States has never been more divided, can any nation, even the world's most powerful, be a global leader if it cannot even keep its own house in order? Ian Bremmer's conversation with Slaughter is part of a new episode of GZERO World.

Watch the episode: How a "President Biden" could reshape US foreign policy

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