John Fund of National Review Online explains why Americans can’t afford to ignore Africa.

Twenty years ago, the venerable Economist magazine called it the “Hopeless Continent.” Even today, stories of poverty, disease, dictatorial states, and corruption often engender feelings of fatalism or exasperation.

Here is what many people are missing. Information technology — especially mobile phones — is connecting African farmers and producers to new markets, and the continent is now a major buyer of consumer goods from around the world. Better health outcomes mean that Africa’s share of the world’s population is projected to grow from 16 percent in 2015 to 25 percent in 2050 and 39 percent by 2100. We cannot ignore the fact that most of the world’s new labor force will be African in the future.

China and Russia are dramatically expanding their influence in Africa and, according to National Security Adviser John Bolton, their efforts to lock down strategic minerals and forge military ties with weak governments “pose a significant threat to U.S. national security interests.” An astounding 39 of 54 African nations have signed on to Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative — a trillion-dollar plan that would make China a dominant economic player on the continent. An estimated 25 percent of China’s total oil imports currently come from Africa.

I recently visited several African countries, ranging from Zambia to Zimbabwe to Ethiopia, and can attest that the humanitarian work being done there is not only important on a heartfelt personal level. It’s also making more Africans self-sufficient and less likely to once again fall prey to foreign powers.