Is the Africa-America axis really made real in Washington, DC?

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL December 13, 2022

Washington, DC is holding an overdue holiday party that will last three days from kick-off on Tuesday December 13. US President Joe Biden is playing host to the first US-Africa Leaders Summit since 2014 (it was the only one!) even as he plans a multi-country trip to the continent next year.

Dozens of African leaders are attending the DC party – a nice change, I suppose, from the regular summits every three years that China holds with Africa, either in Beijing or on the continent.

The DC summit has drawn representatives from 49 countries, which is probably testament to what they think of America: Nice to have as friend and protector while China is both canny customer and unquestioning lender. China’s trade with Africa was five times the US total last year, and Beijing can offer loans and infrastructure projects that the US won’t. But the truth of the matter is that the US is an indispensable security ally for many African countries.

As president, Donald Trump saw Africa through the prism of America’s contest with China, but Mr Biden wants to indicate interest in the 54-nation continent’s own agenda and ideas for the future.

All of this will feed into Mr Biden’s trip to Africa next year, which would address some of the neglect from the Trump years. Mr Trump was the first president since Ronald Reagan not to visit sub-Saharan Africa. But the Biden administration has been trying to change the dynamic with secretary of state Anthony Blinken visiting the continent multiple times. In August, Mr Blinken announced the new US Africa strategy, which emphasizes the continent’s growing global importance.

Though Africa is 17 per cent of the world’s population, it accounts for just 2.5 per cent of global trade.

But, as they say, you can’t go far wrong with flattery.

And summitry.