Today’s blog post was written by Truman Project intern Nick Seremetis.

Developing nations in Africa are sure to prove powerful strategic partners to whoever helps them move from poverty to prosperity. China understands this opportunity and has taken it upon itself to seize it. For the US, failing to demonstrate leadership in Africa would be a monumental mistake.

The fifth meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation was held on July 19th. The forum promoted China’s intended strategic partnership with Africa, one it will forge largely through developmental aid programs to which it pledged $20 billion. Originally, the Chinese pursuit of solidifying its long term strategic partnership with Africa via investment-driven, no-strings-attached aid was met with skepticism from much of the world community due to the country’s questionable human rights record. Yet as both the need for aid and the lack of US investment to meet it becomes increasingly evident, major world players, including some of our closest allies, are warming to the idea of Chinese taking the reins. For example, the United Kingdom has indicated a desire to partner with China in order to end African poverty, a development that demonstrates China’s approach will win it strategic partnerships with more than just African countries.

Should the United States fail to step into the aid vacuum that China is already filling, it will represent a major setback to our long term economic and national security. China’s program of investment based aid will give it an unshakeable foothold in Africa’s economy, cutting off an enormous source of potential trade. It will effectively remove the ability of the US to influence the direction in which African countries develop, making it difficult to eliminate threats from within their borders and ensure their emergence as America’s partners rather than its adversaries.

We have a fast-closing window of opportunity to strengthen America’s economy and security by stabilizing ailing African nations. If America is to be looked to by emerging African nations as a critical ally and partner, we must invest in their development now.