Co-authored by Lina Benabdallah.
Last week Secretary of State Anthony Blinken released the Biden administration’s long-awaited Africa strategy during his visit to South Africa. Perhaps the most notable shift in tone during Blinken’s five-day, three-country tour of the continent was his reference to African states as geostrategic players — a clear response to the fact that America’s staunchest rivals on the continent (China, and increasingly Russia) have gained traction precisely by approaching their African counterparts as partners, rather than as charity cases or an afterthought.
By 2050, Africa will account for 25 percent of the world’s population. It contains some of the world’s fastest growing economies, and as a region it represents the world’s eighth largest economy. By 2063, it is expected to become the world’s third largest economy, surpassing Germany, France, India and the United Kingdom. This accounts for the growing number of foreign players competing for influence on the continent.
With this in mind, the U.S. is attempting to demonstrate — through the new policy — that it takes Africa seriously. Biden’s Africa team, led by Judd Devermont at the National Security Council, is aware of the stakes at hand, and of the damage wrought by the previous administration’s patronizing speeches, disrespectful slurs, travel bans and understaffed embassies that lack concrete initiatives to benefit Africans and U.S.-Africa relations.
The timing of Blinken’s tour was a bit awkward for the Biden administration, as Congress is set to pass a bill that reflects a resurgence of Cold War thinking in Washington and that rehashes a patronizing approach to the continent. During his visit, South Africa’s International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor expressed concerns about the Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act, which has already passed in the House, and proposes to closely monitor how the continent interacts with Russia. Even as the new U.S. Africa policy declares that governments should be “able to make their own political choices,” Pandor noted that the bill aims to effectively punish African governments for their relationships with Russia and Russian corporations.
Read the full piece in MSN.