Trudeau’s Trip to Africa is Important…but Not for The Reasons You Think.

Prime Minister Trudeau meets with Senegal President Macky Sall
Senegal’s President Macky Sall walks alongside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, upon arrival at the Presidential Palace in Dakar, Senegal, on Feb. 12, 2020.

No doubt you’ve read stories in the Canadian press highlighting Prime Minister Trudeau’s trip through Africa. The immediate purpose is to advocate for Canada’s seat on the Security Council of the UN. This is admirable and I am happy to see Canada take on such a role internationally.

The news of his trip caught my eye though for a different reason. For years, China has been heavily investing in African countries. At the same time Chinese business has been offshoring much of the manufacturing and low wage work that we used to associate with their economy to African nations. However, a major handicap for African nations has traditionally been poor infrastructure to facilitate a robust industrial manufacturing sector. To offset this, China has been building major infrastructure projects themselves throughout the continent.

All of this seems to be part of China’s Belt and Road initiative, meant to shore up economic ties with various regions of the world. As well as becoming more proactive on being a figure geopolitically on the world stage. Already they are flexing their influence in Africa in regards to some countries recognition of Taiwan.

It appears that globalization succeeded in building China into a fully functioning first world economy. However the trade off is that now China is seeking to become a major player, if not the economic super power of the 21st century.

We in the west need to take note of this, especially in light of Chinese behaviours politically as of late. Chinas retaliatory actions of imprisoning Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor for detaining Huawei exec Meng Wanzhou demonstrates a world class power that is willing to go to any lengths to get it’s way.

If African economic potential is to finally be unleashed, Canada cannot afford to be locked out. Canada’s long history with Africa cannot be taken for granted by us. It is apparent that in a void of other direct foreign investment China will be free to exert as much economic and political pressure to force sovereign nations to adapt to it’s will as it wishes. Potentially reshaping the global status quo in ways unfavourable to ourselves.

Trudeau is right to reinvest Canada’s interests in nurturing the connections we already have to African countries. The multi lateral ties through the Francophonie as well as the Commonwealth are only a start. It is noticed that Trudeau stopped in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to talk up a potential investment agreement. Especially when it is the same site of a major railway project from Djibouti to the Ethopian capital, funded and built by the Chinese.

If Canada is to continue to be a major global economic partner, it cannot be locked out of emerging markets. China has proven time and time again that it is playing for keeps. We must approach the situation with the same mentality. Our mining industries, as well as infrastructure industry can prove to be excellent economic catalysts in continuing to build up Africa and unlock its potential. African nations are positioning themselves to become the next great economic frontier. Canada must be poised to become their partner in this endeavour.

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