US policy to tackle climate change, boost investments
Wednesday August 17 2022
The US says its future co-operation with Africa will focus on trade, and investment to reinvigorate its waning influence on the continent, and has also pledged to boost digital initiatives, fight climate change, and deliver Covid-19 vaccines.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken unveiled the strategy last week in South Africa during his five-day tour of sub-Saharan Africa that included earlier visits to DR Congo and Rwanda.
Blinken says Africans must choose their partners well as the US competes for influence on the continent with Russia and China.
The strategy underscores; human rights and democracy; fighting terrorism and ending armed conflict; pandemic recovery; hunger and climate change at the heart of the Biden administration’s engagement with the continent.
“It’s a strategy that reflects the region’s complexity – its diversity, its power and influence – and one that focuses on what we will do with African nations and peoples, not for African nations and peoples,” Blinken said.
He added that the US “will not dictate Africa’s choices, and neither should anyone else. The right to make these choices belongs to Africans, and Africans alone.”
But during his trip, Blinken downplayed criticism of the US, that it had ignored Africa over the past decade, lacked a coherent policy on how to engage the region, and was instead now keen on the relationship to counter increasing Russian and Chinese influence. Of particular concern to African countries is a bill, the Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act, passed by the House of Representatives on April 27, that if passed by the Senate will become law punishing African governments for lending a hand to Russian “malign” activities on the continent.
The bill defines such malign activities as those that “undermine United States objectives and interests,” and requires the US Secretary of State “...to develop and submit to Congress a strategy and implementation plan outlining United States efforts to counter the malign influence and activities of the Russian Federation and its proxies in Africa.”
While Blinken declined to comment on the bill he defended the US position, saying his government is not asking Africans to choose but rather “providing a choice.”
On March 2 this year, 28 AU member states voted in favour of a UN resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, 17 abstained, eight didn’t vote, and Eritrea voted against in a vote of 141. Four voted against.
While African nations are free to import Russian grain and fertilisers, they risk sanctions if they trade with Russian oil, which remains sanctioned by the US.
In a separate virtual briefing on Thursday, Molly Phee, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs told journalists that the US exempted all Russian food products from sanction because they knew “they were important to many consumers around the world, including those here in Africa.”
“We are seeking to deprive Russia of the revenue that it receives from oil sales, which it is using to conduct this terrible, illegal campaign in Ukraine,” Phee said.
during his tour, the South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor at a joint press briefing expressed concern at the attempt by the US to “punish” countries that did not support the West in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
“I hate being told, ‘either you choose this, or else,’ Pandor said.