PRETORIA: The United States is committed to a “true partnership” with Africa and does not seek to “surpass” other world powers in their struggle for influence over the continent, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday (Aug. 8).
Blinken outlined the US government’s new Africa strategy when he visited South Africa on the first stop of a three-country trip to the continent.
The visit followed on the heels of an extensive African tour by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Still, Blinken said the United States does not see the region as the “newest playing field in a competition between superpowers”.
“Our commitment to a stronger partnership with Africa is not about trying to outdo anyone else,” the top US diplomat told a news conference in the capital, Pretoria, along with his South African counterpart Naledi Pandor.
South Africa, a leader in the developing world, has remained neutral in the war in Ukraine.
Pretoria has refused to join Western calls to condemn Moscow, which had opposed apartheid before the end of white minority rule in 1994.
Pandor said no one in South Africa supported war and described Russia as a “negligible economic partner”, but added that she was glad the United States did not ask her country to take sides.
However, there was “a sense of condescending bullying” from other partners in Europe and elsewhere, she said.
“We should be just as concerned about what is happening to the people of Palestine as we are about what is happening to the people of Ukraine,” she said, referring to a flare-up of fighting in Gaza.
NEW AFRICA POLICY
Later on Monday, in a lecture at the University of Pretoria, Blinken explained the new US strategy for sub-Saharan Africa, which he said focused on four priorities: promoting “openness” and democracy, pursuing economic development and tackling global warming.
The United States and African countries needed to work together as “equal partners” to address those issues, he said.
“Too often, African nations have been treated as instruments of other nations’ progress, rather than the authors of their own,” he said.
“The United States will not dictate Africa’s choices, nor will anyone else. The right to make these choices belongs to Africans, and Africans alone.”
The new strategy was announced at the end of a comprehensive policy review by President Joe Biden’s administration.
Some critics say the US’s focus on militarily countering extremist groups in Africa has paid off, even as China and Russia have stepped in by aggressively using diplomatic and economic tools.
A policy note outlining the new strategy argued that pushing for greater openness and democracy in sub-Saharan Africa would help “counteract harmful activities” by China, Russia and other actors.
“The poor governance, exclusion and corruption inherent in weak democracies make them more vulnerable to extremist movements and foreign interference,” Blinken said in Pretoria.
“So is Kremlin-backed Wagner, who exploits instability to loot resources and abuses with impunity,” he said, referring to the shadowy Russian mercenary organization, which operates in African countries, including Mali and the Central African Republic. Republic.
Blinken outlined a range of initiatives, including investments in agriculture and renewable energy plants.
The United States has funded the projects to help African economies seek a clean energy transition and to cope with the impact of COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine, which has caused fuel and food prices to skyrocket.
“What we are looking for above all is a real partnership between the United States and Africa. We don’t want an imbalanced or transactional relationship,” Blinken told the press conference.
His comments came after Russian President Vladimir Putin in June urged BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – to cooperate in the face of “selfish actions” by the West.
Commenting on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he said that the United States was not looking for conflict anywhere, but that it was important to face the challenges of the international order.
“If we allow a big country to bully a smaller country, just invade and take its territory, then it will be an open season, not just in Europe, but all over the world,” he said.