Summary of the breakout conversation “The Race with China for Energy in Africa: What are the implications?” at the 2010 Annual Members’ Conference.


Martin Kimani, Acting Director, Atlantic Council Michael S. Ansari Africa Center
Richard Lawson, Chairman, Energy and Environment Program, Atlantic Council
George Moose, Former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
Moderated by Nancy J. Walker, Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council Michael S. Ansari Africa Center


  • Nigeria is experiencing a population explosion—significant because populations drive energy—if populations don’t get their hands on energy, something will have to give
  • There is enormous opportunity for the U.S. to find common ground with China on energy
  • People should be concerned with what effects the competition for energy will have on fragile African states and institutions
  • Oil companies have discovered there is enormous risk to operate in the Gulf of Guinea, these are U.S. and Chinese problems
  • The Chinese will eventually have to make their investments sustainable just as the U.S. is trying to do
  • This gives way to potential for convergence with the U.S/China/other allies on how to make the situation in Africa sustainable
  • The same challenges Western countries encounter will be encountered by the Chinese to the same or even greater degree
  • The Chinese are going to be forced to rethink their strategy eventually, as they did in Sudan
  • Problem is that the U.S. is stuck in ‘lecture’ mode and the Chinese are not—the Chinese are trying to be the “friend”
  • Hopefully the Chinese’s desire to be a ‘friend’ will force their activities to become more “normalized” under international rules/law
  • Right now Chinese participation in African oil is only 3% of its oil activities
  • Excess money can lead to poor investments and bad decision-making
  • Rather than revise existing programs China is “plugging in” to what is already in place—-some expect the future of Africa to look very much like the past
  • The only way China has been able to politically control itself is through economic opportunity
  • Maneuvering space for African political leader is usually when 2 other countries are in competition (US v China)

-Summary by Kristen Smith, Assistant Director, Ansari Africa Center

This session was held under Atlantic Council Rules, defined by President and CEO Frederick Kempe as “Chatham House Rules with military enforcement.”