USA challenges China

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USA challenges China

The United States intends to finance with 250 million dollars the construction of a corridor in southern Africa, a key hub for guaranteeing access to essential minerals for the modern economy such as copper and cobalt.US President Joe Biden said the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) is conducting due diligence for funding the Lobito Atlantic Rail Corridor, which stretches through Angola to connect Katanga's mining regions in the Republic Democratic Congo (DRC) and Zambia's Copperbelt province.

The project would cut ore transport times from weeks to days.The Democratic Republic of the Congo is considered the largest cobalt exporter in the world, accounting for approximately 70% of global production; Zambia has large reserves of copper and cobalt, while Angola is one of Africa's top oil producers and is home to diamond mines. It is well known that these minerals are crucial today for electric batteries and in general for the basis of high-tech products.

The involvement of the United States in the project would collide with competition from China, whose companies have been investing in the area for years. The South China Morning Post reports it. One of the main segments of the Lobito Corridor is the 1,344 km long Benguela Railway in Angola, which connects the port of Lobito with the town of Luau, located on the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

This key mining transport route was closed during the war in Angola from 1975 to 2002. Angola was later able to undertake the reconstruction of the railway with funding from China, completing it in 2014. However, the route through the Republic Democratic Congo remains in bad shape, while Zambia needs to build its own rail link to connect. Currently, these two countries transport their minerals by road to ports in South Africa and East Africa.

“Chinese firms will continue to compete for infrastructure projects along the Lobito Corridor. Chinese investment is likely to focus on improving transportation connectivity along the corridors linking the Zambia Copper Belt and the DRC to the Indian Ocean.” said Tim Zajontz, a researcher at the Center for International and Comparative Politics in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

However, the US initiative to finance transportation infrastructure along the Lobito Corridor may be a geostrategic move due to increased competition in sensitive supply chains. This theory was championed by Gyude Moore, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington, at SCMP. "Increased U.S. investment in transportation and logistics infrastructure along the Lobito Corridor aims to secure access to critical raw materials such as copper and cobalt, which have become a vital interest for Western capitals," Zajontz told SCMP. , adding that Washington is willing to "avoid situations" in which Chinese companies can control critical supply chains for fear that Beijing will be able to use it as a weapon of blackmail "should relations with the West deteriorate".

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