Washington. Finally, dozens of African heads of state and government met in Washington for a summit in the days of Barack Obama. In 2014, the then US President initiated a meeting of about 50 representatives from African countries for the first time. Now US President Joe Biden has again been invited to the three-day USA-Africa summit, which began on Tuesday. By Thursday there should be talks on the economy, health and climate policy.
As announced by the White House, the main focus should be on Africa’s concerns, not on competing for support for the continent with superpowers and anti-establishment rivals China and Russia. “This summit is based on the recognition that Africa is a major geopolitical player. The continent will shape the future not only of African people, but of the world,” US presidential security adviser Jack Sullivan said at the summit. The purpose of the meeting is to highlight the voices and priorities of Africa and to strengthen the partnership between the United States and the African continent.
As far as economic cooperation with Africa is concerned, the US has a lot to do. After a record high in direct investment at the first Africa summit in 2014, annual foreign investment has fallen steadily in the last years of Obama’s office and Donald Trump’s administration, and has seen only a cautious trend with Biden.
Trade between the US and African countries has also declined in recent years. In contrast to the trade volume between China and Africa, it is now four times larger. China has invested more than 300 billion euros in African countries in recent decades. The lion’s share of direct investment in sub-Saharan countries went to Nigeria, Ethiopia and Angola, for example in dam projects or road and rail infrastructure.
Russia, on the other hand, is not only Africa’s largest arms supplier, but is also trying to expand its sphere of influence in Africa through paramilitary groups like the notorious Wagner mercenaries.
The New York Times writes that talk of democracy, mutual respect and shared values is not enough to strengthen the bond between America and Africa. After all, African heads of government usually come home from meetings with authoritarian countries like China, Russia or Turkey that may be invested politically and economically, in infrastructure or military support.
Billions on the way
After all, President Biden — whose big speech is expected on Wednesday — has previously announced his support for the inclusion of the African Union (AU) in the G20 group of leading industrialized and emerging nations. Also, reform of the UN Security Council should be aimed at, providing for a permanent African membership.
Financially, Washington wants to give Africa more help in the future. Over the next three years, €52.2 billion will be made available to help tackle key challenges.
Whether the promises will satisfy the African delegation remains to be seen. Johns Hopkins University’s Mvemba Dizolele told the Washington Post that while the US has largely contributed billions of euros in aid to Ukraine, African countries are frustrated by the lack of US support for smoldering conflicts and crises.(jm/dpa/apa)
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