USA: Joe Biden Courts Africa In The Face Of Chinese And Russian Breakthrough
US President Joe Biden is hosting a summit with Africa this week, meant to revitalize relations with the continent in the face of competition from China and Russia.
The three-day summit in Washington will be an opportunity to announce new investments, to talk about food security – aggravated by the war in Ukraine -, climate change but also democracy and governance.
And perhaps above all to demonstrate that the United States is still interested in Africa, eight years after the first summit of its kind in 2014 under the presidency of Barack Obama.
Former President Donald Trump made no secret of his lack of interest in the African continent, while Joe Biden, champion of multilateralism, intends to put Africa back at the heart of world diplomacy.
He supports the idea of a seat for Africa on the UN Security Council and he will call at the summit for the African Union to be formally represented in the G20, said a presidential adviser.
“This decade will be decisive. And the years to come will determine the way in which the world will be reorganized”, affirmed the + Mr. Africa + of the National Security Council, Judd Devermont, stressing that the Biden administration “firmly believes that the Africa will have a decisive voice”.
The summit comes in the wake of a new “Africa” strategy unveiled last summer and announcing an overhaul of US policy in sub-Saharan Africa, to counter the Chinese and Russian presence there.
China is the world’s largest creditor to poor and developing countries and invests heavily in the resource-rich African continent.
Similarly, Russia has greatly increased its presence there, including by sending mercenaries, and is cultivating close ties with certain capitals, in particular those which had decided at the beginning of March not to contribute their votes to a United Nations resolution condemning the invasion of Ukraine, a major point of tension with the United States.
During a summer tour of Africa, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for a “true partnership” with Africa.
Almost everyone welcome
As a sign of this openness, the United States invited all member countries of the African Union and in “good relations” with the AU, except for Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali and Sudan, and with whom Washington maintains diplomatic relations, excluding Eritrea.
Among the expected leaders are Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, just over a month after signing a peace agreement with the Tigrayan rebels, as well as the presidents of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, amid conflict in the east of the country in the face of the M23 rebellion.
But also the Egyptian presidents Abdel Fattah al-Sissi and Tunisian Kais Saied, struggling with strong protest, and the president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, a few days after the United States described his re-election as a “simulacrum “.
Teodoro Obiang holds the world record for longevity in power for a living head of state.
The only notable absentee is South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is in trouble in his country amid accusations of corruption.
“It is clear that we are criticized by those who wonder about the fact of knowing why we invited this or that government with which we have concerns”, admits Molly Phee, of the State Department.
“But it reflects the desire of President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken to have respectful discussions, including with those with whom we have differences,” she adds.
The senior diplomat said in particular that she expected a “robust discussion” on the programming law on “growth in Africa” passed in 2000 and linking the lifting of customs tariffs to democratic progress. This law expires in 2025.
For Mvemba Phezo Dizolele, who heads the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, the summit “presents real opportunities but also certain risks”.
“This is an opportunity to show Africa that the United States is really listening,” he observes. “But the expectation being very high, the question will be to know if things will really change”.