US-Africa Summit Begins Today

Biden tries to counter the expansionism of China and Russia

Opens today in Washington on US-Africa summit, organized by the administration of the US president Joe Biden with the aim of consolidating trade relations with African partners and, above all, of containing the growing influence of Russia and China on the continent.

This is the second edition of an appointment wanted for the first time in 2014 by then President Barack Obama.

Once again the summit promises to be “historic”, in particular due to Washington’s declared desire to make the voice of African leaders more incisive and stronger at the tables of the major international forums.

Thus, with an official note from the White House, Biden announced that on the occasion of the summit – on the agenda until December 15 – the United States will formally announce its support for the African Union’s request to be included as a permanent member in the G20. group that brings together the main global economies and of which only South Africa is currently a member for Africa.

“The time has come for Africa to have permanent seats at the table of international organizations and initiatives. We need more African voices in the international debate on the global economy, democracy and governance, climate change, health and security,” explained White House adviser on African affairs Judd Devermont.

The leaders of 50 African countries were invited to the summit, just like eight years ago with Obama.

However, the representatives of Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea, Sudan and Eritrea will certainly not be present at this year’s meeting.

The first four countries were suspended by the African Union following military coups. Asmara, on the other hand, is accused by Washington of aggravating the ongoing conflict in Tigre, in northern Ethiopia, where the local population continues to denounce attacks and abuses by Eritrean soldiers.

The invitation was instead extended to Chad, spared at the end of November from sanctions by the Peace and Security Council of the AU despite the request of the president of the commission Moussa Faki Mahamat to give a signal of “consistency” with the position taken towards other African countries equally led by coup juntas.

Also expected in Washington are the Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al Sisi, the Tunisian Kais Saied – grappling with a strong internal protest -, as well as the president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, a few days after the United States expressed serious doubts about his re-election.

Finally, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, in power for 36 years, and Somali Sheikh Hassan Mohamud, who in his renewed offensive against Al Shabaab must be able to count on the African Union mission (Atmis, ex Amisom) and the contribution of Kenya, for which President William Ruto will participate in the event in Washington.

The latter, perhaps also in view of the summit, flew to Eritrea over the weekend at the invitation of President Isaias Afwerki, with whom he discussed bilateral issues and regional balances.

In any case, as reported to the media by US government sources, not all the delegations of the African countries invited plan to send the head of state to Washington, raising questions about the effectiveness of resolutions taken without the direct involvement of the leaders.

This is the case of South Sudan – represented by Foreign Minister Mayiik Ayii Deng – or of South Africa itself, whose president Cyril Ramaphosa risks missing due to the motion of no confidence currently pending against him.

On the other hand, for Ethiopia there will be a surprise premier Abiy Ahmed, who until the eve it seemed he would not participate in favor of president Sahle-Work Zewde.

Then the heads of state of other influential African countries will listen to the proposals of the United States, such as the Nigerian Muhammadu Buhari – whose mandate is running out – or the Angolan Joao Lourenco, mediator of weight in the intricate conflict underway in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with the involvement of neighboring Rwanda.

Among the topics on the table, it is probable that space will find space for the increasingly marked trend on the part of regional organizations to send military missions for conflict resolution: this is the case of the Community of Southern African Countries (SADC) for Mozambique, of the of East Africa (Eac) for the Democratic Republic of Congo and even of the Economic Community of West African Countries (Cedeao), which after sending troops to Guinea-Bissau in February to contain the impact of the thwarted coup is now said she was “decided” to set up a regional force that “will intervene when necessary, whether it is for security, terrorism or the restoration of constitutional order in the member states”.

Washington’s renewed interest in Africa is all the more necessary for the Biden administration in a phase of borderless rivalry with China and Russia, whose presence on the continent is also supported by a certain favor in public opinion.

Also because in the meantime France seems to have lost its grip in some areas historically in its orbit – Sahel in the lead – and where decisive democratic intervention is needed to curb the dangerous expansion of coup movements.

Moreover, Washington has to make up for a considerable delay from this point of view, in the face of a constant presence of its rivals, in particular China. If Beijing has held a meeting with its African counterparts every three years since 2000, various initiatives have so far been recorded in the West – from the United Kingdom to Turkey, via the European Union summit – which however lack general coordination, as you understand probably the US administration.

If already on February 5, 2021 – just two weeks after taking office – Biden promised in a video message to the African Union his commitment to improve relations with the continent on the basis of “mutual respect and solidarity” and “to bring forward our shared vision of a better future”, tomorrow’s summit comes very close, not surprisingly, to the visit made to Washington by French President Emmanuel Macron, who may have left it to the US to contain the Russian and Chinese expansionism on the African continent.

The project will also serve to fill an embarrassing “diplomatic hole” that Washington has in the embassies of several countries on the continent – the reopening to Sudan is a recent affair – and to strengthen its grip on a necessary anti-terrorism partnership that also has strong economic implications : from this point of view, the interest of the USA seems focused on the sub-Saharan countries experiencing a more recent jihadist penetration – Benin, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea and Togo – and in which the implementation of trade agreements would be further hindered such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa, an agreement that aims to facilitate the entry of African countries into the American market) and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (Afcfta), the embryo of the future single African market in which Washington must know immediately create the right conditions for participation so as not to fall behind.

In this sense, it is significant that on the eve of the summit the White House announced the allocation of a total of 55 billion dollars in Africa over the next three years to support the continent in the fields of security, health and the economy.

Furthermore, as evidence of the renewed US interest in the continent, President Biden is organizing official visits to various African countries for 2023: the tour could be announced this week, in the framework of the US-Africa summit.

This was reported by anonymous sources to the information portal “Axios”, according to which Biden’s tour in sub-Saharan Africa will help reaffirm the United States’ interest in strengthening ties with the continent.

During a briefing at the White House, the national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, declared that the US authorities will announce “an all-out commitment” towards Africa during the summit, which will be attended by representatives of 49 countries, without however go into details.

According to sources, the White House is still working on a possible itinerary.

“The administration is convinced that Africa is a crucial element in tackling the challenges of our time: it is not just a question of preparing a strategy for the continent, but rather for the people who live there,” said one of the sources.



Arab Observer

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