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US-EU partnership: The Lobito Corridor initiative countering China’s belt and road in Africa

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In a bid to counter China’s influence in Africa, the US and EU are collaborating on the Lobito Corridor project, linking critical mineral-rich regions in Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Angola to the port of Lobito. This ambitious initiative entails the construction of approximately 800 kilometers of new railway tracks, along with the acquisition of 1,500 wagons, 35 locomotives, and the enhancement of existing rail lines and port terminals, at an initial cost of $1.6 billion.

The potential benefits of the Lobito Corridor project are significant, with the Congo and Zambia being major producers of copper, a crucial component in renewable energy technologies such as electric batteries and wind turbines. Additionally, Angola boasts abundant reserves of minerals essential for green technology. However, the project is not without challenges, as it represents a test of Western resolve to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

In recent years, China has made substantial investments in African infrastructure, often leveraging its loans to gain control over strategic mineral resources. However, concerns about debt traps and unsustainable lending practices have prompted some African governments to seek alternative partners. This shift presents an opportunity for the US and EU to expand their influence in the region.

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While progress has been made on funding and project development, obstacles remain, including Zambia’s debt crisis and instability in the eastern Congo. Additionally, the lack of a transatlantic agreement on critical minerals poses a challenge, potentially hindering trade between Africa and the US-EU markets.

To address these challenges, EU and US officials are focusing on creating local employment opportunities and supporting infrastructure development in the region. This includes providing grants and concessional loans to finance the railway project and related industries, as well as investments in renewable energy and agricultural infrastructure.

The success of the Lobito Corridor project could signify a shift in the geopolitical dynamics of Africa, reducing China’s dominance in the region and promoting greater economic autonomy for African nations. However, failure to overcome the existing challenges could allow China to strengthen its grip on Africa’s critical mineral resources, underscoring the importance of continued US-EU collaboration in the region.

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