U.S. job creation weapon against China in Africa

BY GUEST COLUMN | JUNE 06, 2012 6:30 AM

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Every year, thousands of African students graduate from American universities. Some of them go back to Africa to work with their governments or to work in the private sector; some stay in the United States to look for jobs; others, who have green cards or are American citizens stay permanently and are under the responsibility of the U.S. government.

Recent statistics, released by the Labor Department on June 1, show, however, that the U.S. government is struggling to create jobs for Americans here at home and abroad.

But African students who graduate from U.S. universities, including the University of Iowa, every year can, if used strategically, help the United States become the No. 1 partner of Africa and help the U.S. government create jobs by trading with Africa.

A recent report by the African Bank for Development shows that Africa has a fast-growing middle class, and some members of the U.S. Congress, through the Increasing American Jobs Through Greater Exports to Africa Act of 2012, want the United States to increase its export to Africa by 200 percent in the next decade. They argue that this will help create jobs for Americans at home and abroad.

Securing deals with African leaders or negotiators today is all about trust. Unlike China, the Untied States wants to be a partner that respects human rights and the rule of law. But because of history, many Africans see in the U.S. approach a way of imposing Western values, a form of neocolonialism. They see no difference between the Americans and the Europeans and have no other choice than to welcome China, which gives them loans with job-taking conditionality and whose violations of human rights often pass unnoticed.

Maybe the United States does not have the money right now to do this kind of loan or it does not want to send taxpayers' money to Africa. But the government has to think strategically: It can offer incentives (financial and logistics) to those African American graduates who have double nationalities and who would like to go back to Africa to start their own business. This will help create jobs for Americans and for Africans and opportunities for joint ventures between businesses.

Unlike the United States, China is still trying to strengthen its relations with Africa. In his address to Kenyan students, titled "Strengthen China-Africa Friendship and Cooperation to Build a Better Tomorrow," Li Changchun, a member of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China, announced China's intention to increase the number of government scholarships to African students. By doing so, China wants to lay a solid foundation for future China-Africa friendly ties.

However, the United States already has a solid relation with many African countries; it has a better education system and better universities; and it has been training African students for decades.

I am certain that, due to their knowledge of Africa and their African origin, they will be more welcome and trusted by African governments and would not have difficulties working with African business men and women.

Henri Nkuepo
UI law research scholar

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