By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
US President Biden and his administration are set to renew their commitments and hold discussions relating to the global economy, democracy and governance, climate change, health and security, women, youth and education during the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit, scheduled for December 13-15 in Washington, in an event that can certainly be described as a historical landmark for the United States.
Unlike former President Donald Trump, who used derogatory rhetoric to describe Africa as “shit hole” and whose administration presided over lackluster and uncoordinated relations with the continent, Biden seeks to raise Africa unto the global stage, integrate it into international bodies, and offer support for transforming its multifaceted economy and other sectors. Amid a changing world, at least the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit reflects a key strategic approach to establishing leverage with Africa.
According to various reports monitored by the author, Biden is expected to announce American support for the African Union’s admission to the G-20 as a permanent member. Joining the G-20 would enable Africa to engage more forcefully with pertinent issues, existing challenges, and possible ways to achieve sustainable development across Africa.
G-20 members include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United States, and the European Union. Out of 55 African countries, South Africa is the only member of the group from the continent.
Therefore, President Biden and his administration’s latest push for the African Union’s ascension is much needed. This final significant move comes after African Union Chair and Presidents of Senegal and South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa and Macky Sall, humbly requested Biden to expand their participation in the G-20.
White House reports say Biden has not scheduled one-on-one meeting with any of the 50 African leaders attending the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit, and has not invited Western Sahara, Eritrea, Somaliland, Sudan, Guinea, Mali, or Burkina Faso. The decision not to invite Sudan, Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso came because these countries are currently suspended by the African Union following coups and counter-coups in West Africa.
In the case of Eritrea, although the United States established diplomatic relations there in 1993, following its independence from Ethiopia, and Washington was one of the first countries to recognize Eritrea’s independence, relations have been frosty over government detention of political dissidents and prisoners of conscience, including religious minorities; the closure of the independent press; limits on civil liberties; violations of religious freedom; and reports of human rights abuses. Moreover, the situation has broadly worsened over the past two years amid the war in Tigray.
It said that Western Sahara, a disputed territory on the northwest coast and in the Maghreb region of North and West Africa, has not been invited to the summit. About 20% of its territory is controlled by the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, while the remaining 80% of the territory is occupied and administered by neighboring Morocco.
U.S. has no diplomatic relations with the Western Sahara, so they have not been invited. Currently, Somaliland and the United States also do not have official diplomatic relations.
The Biden administration will also seriously consider the future of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which expires in 2025. It has been the bedrock of trade relations between the two regions since the legislation was passed in 2000. Its future is important as it connects with the current African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which represents a platform to discuss the implementation of AGOA and ways to work together to improve, for example, AGOA utilization rates, strengthening economic cooperation, expanding to a trade and investment, and of course, support regional economic integration.
Under President Obama, there was the Young African Leadership Initiative to really speak to the moment in terms of the large demographic youth population and provide them the skills that they need to be leaders. The initiative works closely with the African diaspora and young civil society and business leaders across Africa. And the Young African Leader Diaspora Forum is just one of its many manifestations during the summit.
The United States looks to find innovative solutions to new and longstanding challenges, harnessing new research and technologies, and investing in long-term sources of strength while meeting immediate needs and aspirations of Africans. In practical terms, Washington recognizes the fact that Africa has enormous resources, and is among the world’s fastest-growing populations, largest free-trade areas, most diverse ecosystems, and the largest regional-based voting bloc in the United Nations.
On paper, the summit is to “highlight how the United States and our African partners are strengthening our partnerships and advancing shared priorities, and indicates a reflection of the U.S. strategy towards sub-Saharan Africa and the African Union’s Agenda 2063, both of which emphasize the critical importance of the region in meeting this era’s defining challenges.”
In conclusion, it explicitly follows that it is an opportunity to deepen longstanding partnership and to focus on new areas. Discussions will focus on challenges and barriers hindering smooth friendship, ways of strengthening and advancing shared economic priorities, and defining opportunities for building relations into the future