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Doubt still in US-Africa ties after change of guard

By Stephen Ndegwa
Thursday, January 28th, 2021
US President Joe Biden got to a busy start on Day One. Photo/PD/AFP
In summary

The inauguration of President Joe Biden in Capitol Hill, has opened a new world of possibilities for those with close interest in developments taking place in the U.S.

More so, different countries and regions are going back to the drawing board to study how a Biden presidency, will serve or not serve their interests, both bi-laterally and internationally.

Like elsewhere in the world, African leaders welcomed the election of Biden after he won in the November 3, 2020 elections, with many expressing hope and desire to work with the new administration.

African Union Commission’s chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat tweeted that he looked forward to a new, stronger USA-Africa relationship, based on mutual respect and shared values of international cooperation.

Unreasonable conditionalities

But for Africa in general, the prevailing mood is being determined by the maxim ‘once bitten, twice shy’, with many heads of State observing progress in the US with cautious optimism following the love-hate relationship between the two partners. 

Indeed, Africa is not popping up the champagne yet, until there is tangible evidence of renewed commitment by the US in African affairs.

Moreover, it will not be easy for the US to regain the trust of Africa owing to the unreasonable conditionalities attached to its partnerships and its patronising interference in the internal affairs of other countries. 

Further, international relations analysts are looking at the Barrack Obama and Biden’s presidency to gauge the direction of the US-Africa policy going forward.

Not that in Obama’s tenure there were any benefits to write home about from a man whose roots are in the continent, Kenya to be specific.

Obama toured Africa begrudgingly during his term in office, often leaving a bitter taste due to his insistence on recognition of gay rights for countries that want to benefit from US aid.  

So far, Africa can only glean benefits accruing to the continent by unpacking the raft of  Executive orders that Biden has rescinded from Donald Trump.

Some of the key reversal orders include rejoining the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, ending travel ban on some majority-Muslim countries and re-embracing the World Health Organization (WHO). 

The importance of these policies to Africa emanate from the fact that a percentage of the funds America invests in their operationalisation are directed to the continent.

In the climate agreement, for example, the US supports numerous programs, both globally and bi-laterally, that help to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change.

Although Africa is the continent with the least carbon print, it absorbs most of the gases that exacerbate global warming.

The visa ban on Muslim immigrants had affected African citizens from Libya, Somalia and Sudan.

The return to WHO will also benefit Africa from the disbursement of more resources for tackling Covid-19.  

Millions of African youth are also unsure whether the US will make good its previous promises to engage them in the Silicon Valley.

The youth are bubbling with innovative digital ideas which the US keeps promising to bring to fruition to no avail.

Most of these youth, have shifted their ambitions to technology giants in the East, for help in bringing their ideas to reality.  

As currently constituted, US and Africa’s interests are diametrically opposed, and expectedly so since the partners are operating at both ends of the socio-economic and development spectrum.

This time America is inevitably engrossed in cleaning up Trump’s mess that Africa’s needs may not appear on the radar of priorities.

What Africans are sure of is the return of Democratic Party inspired pontifications and sanctions in areas of sexual and reproductive health, democracy and human rights.

While these may be important values, they are not core to the urgency of development support that the continent needs in poverty alleviation, education, shelter, infrastructure and food security. — The writer is an international affairs columnist

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