Shortly, President Obama will visit a number of African countries. Economic development will be a hot topic among the many to be discussed. Currently, China is developing partnerships throughout Africa, but does America have more in common with the African nations than China does? There are several areas where African interests converge more closely with America than with China, or with Asia in general.
First, one in six people in the United States is African-American, compared with a much smaller number of people of African descent who are Chinese citizens. African-Americans have contributed enormously to American culture, science, and politics throughout their history in spite of the terrible legacy of slavery.
Second, the African continent would benefit from the U.S.’s political and governmental experience with democracy and democratic institutions. Also, the court system in the U.S. is much easier to navigate, as is the Uniform Commercial Code which governs business transactions.
Although China is beginning to experiment with capitalism, its commercial institutions are highly intertwined with state-run enterprises. As a consequence, consummating business transactions is more complicated in China.
Third, in the U.S., organizational management structure and accounting practices are highly standardized through centuries of business experience and tradition, including the Chartered Accountants of England and of Canada and Public Accountancy in the United States. The same advantages also hold for the European and American Stock Exchanges and bourses. Currently, the International Federation of Accountants has begun a long process of reconciling commonalities in global accounting standards. Nonetheless, the European and American accountancy bodies are at the cutting edge of accounting practice, as well as accounting and management information systems consultancy.
For all of the above reasons, African interests are more closely allied to the United States than to China or even Asia in general. Clearly, the United States has a comparative advantage in the
formulation and implementation of democratic institutions, the legal code, the U.S. court system, and the accounting, economic and financial standards which are centuries old.