The coming U.S.-Africa Summit
Fifty African leaders have been invited by President Joe Biden for the US-Africa summit to hold December 13-15 this year.
“The summit will demonstrate the United States enduring commitment to Africa, and will underscore the importance of US Africa relations and increased cooperation on shared global priorities, Biden said in a statement.
Biden has yet to visit Africa since becoming president, and the summit will give him an opportunity to comprehensively look at the complexities of the continent to further promote western democracy as a counterbalance to China’s growing influence in Africa. Since 2013, China has been the top foreign investor in Africa spending billions of dollars on the continent’s infrastructure.
The US is stepping up efforts but is still far from catching up despite the launch of the Prosper Africa initiative in 2021 to increase two-way trade and investment between the United States and African countries.
To close that gap, Biden said “the summit will work toward new economic engagement, promote democracy and human rights, advance peace and security, and address challenges such as food, security and climate change as well as the pandemic.’’ The U.S President believes that his country’s collaboration with leaders from the African government, civil society, the private sector and the African diaspora will help tackle some of the challenges.
Affirming that the US offers a better model, the US Agency for International Development announced recently ahead of the summit that it is providing nearly $1.3 billion in aid to the Horn of Africa nations of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia to help stave off mass starvation and death in the drought-stricken region. The US Foreign Aid Chief urged China, the US economic rival, to do more to address the current global food crisis.
A subterranean struggle to control mining assets continues in the Democratic Republic of Congo between the U.S and China, with minerals critical in the batteries powering the green industrial revolution. Nigeria cooperates with the U.S in many spheres.
The US is working with Nigeria to address security challenges, including those posed by Boko Haram, ISIS West Africa Province, and other terrorist and extremist groups. But the result of such US collaborations with Nigeria is not always positive.
On different occasions, Washington has stressed the opportunity to terminate military and technical cooperation with Nigeria on grounds of violation of human rights and improper use of the Super Tucano Fighter Jets in the Boko Haram conflict. The sale of Super Tucano to Nigeria was met with significant opposition by human rights groups and some members of the US Congress.
Following initial approval, the deal was suspended under the Obama Administration on grounds that the Nigerian military was notorious for its human rights abuses. But the country eventually got the Super Tucano under the Trump Administration with conditions still bordering on human rights.
The human rights issue is frequently raised by Washington and American diplomats. Imposition of sanctions on undemocratic regimes such as Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan and other African countries,’ is often based on the protection of human rights. In fact, only in January this year at the height of the Boko Haram insurgency, the US advised the federal government and military to address insecurity while respecting human rights.
Africa, long on the fringes of the US policy, is becoming an increasingly important trade and investment partner as its young population is set to nearly double by 2050 to reportedly 2.5 billion. “For every $1 spent on feasibility studies in Africa, we see a return of $ 117, which translates into jobs in the US,” said Eno Ebong of the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA).
This is why African leaders must be extremely cautious in choosing foreign partners for assistance in the process of development of political and economic ties. The Biden-Harris Administration clearly understands Africa’s importance, as the White House hosts U.S – the African leader’s summit in December, the first state–level gathering of African leaders and a U.S President since 2014.
Ahead of the summit, the U.S Chamber of Commerce excited at this opportunity to strengthen U.S-African ties, will in September this year in Atlanta Georgia, kick-off “Advance With Africa, a nationwide roadshow and campaign aimed at increasing U.S business’ understanding of commercial opportunities in Africa, transforming the narrative around Africa’s business climate, and dispelling myths, and creating new opportunities for American businesses, big and small.’’
The bottom line is that the main beneficiary of the forthcoming summit will be Washington despite that breakthrough agreements would be reached. African leaders must work towards achieving mutually beneficial partnership, not paternalism.
• Odafe, an economist, wrote in from Warri.