BUILD Act, Increased Attention Toward Cultivating Diplomatic Networks Vital To U.S.-Africa Policy

Foreign Policy: Spite Won’t Beat China in Africa
Lina Benabdallah, assistant professor of politics and international affairs at Wake Forest University

“…If the Trump administration wants to set the United States on a steady footing in Africa, it has to make more credible efforts to strengthen its relations with African governments and citizens of African countries. Although not exclusively directed at Africa, the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development (BUILD) Act, which passed in 2018 and established the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, has drawn a lot of attention in U.S.-Africa policy circles. The Center for Strategic and International Studies called the initiative, which is designed to boost U.S. investment in low- and lower-middle-income economies, ‘the most important piece of U.S. soft power legislation in more than a decade.’ However, if the Trump administration is going to learn anything from the Chinese influence that it is trying so hard to counter, a focus on new avenues for development finance should be paired with a marked increase in the flow of attention and resources toward the cultivation of enduring diplomatic networks. … Rather than reducing U.S.-Africa policy to a reaction to China-Africa relations, the Trump administration would be better off cultivating durable and stable relationships with all African countries, not just the ones that matter to its rivalry with China. … Beijing’s diplomatic approach is not only outplaying Washington’s but leaving a lasting impression across Africa” (1/23).