Today, Wednesday, Joe Biden is sworn in. A day that officially makes him the 46th President of the United States. Biden and his Vice President Kamala Harris show their willingness to break with the Trump years. Will this breach also concern the African policy of the United States? What do we know about the guidelines that the new administration will follow regarding Africa? Christopher Fomunyoh, Africa Director at the National Democratic Institute, answers Laurent Correau’s questions.
Journalist: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had formed a team to reflect on the African policies they could pursue if elected. What do we know about the results of this group?
Christopher Fomunyoh: I think the group recommended a genuine engagement with Africa. Firstly, a consideration for the continent, for Africa and Africans, which would really be a significant departure from the approach that had been led by [Donald] Trump for the last four years. So there will be much more consultation with Africans in the decision-making process regarding the continent. Then some support that Africans lacked in the past, such as support for democratization, support for civil society, will be put back on the table. And even issues of technical assistance in conflict resolution can be prioritized.
Do we already know whether the new administration wants to pursue a different policy on certain bilateral issues??
This is clear, for example, we saw how the Trump administration took a toll on an African country like Nigeria. Recently, Trump introduced a travel ban on Nigeria, which really goes in the opposite direction of what we should have hoped for. I think countries like Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, even Senegal and Ivory Coast, countries that still attract US investors, will be treated better under the Biden administration than under the Trump administration. .
In particular, can we expect a question mark over the recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara??
There it may be a much more complex matter, but I do not think it is out of the question that Biden is questioning this. Biden has already signaled that one of his first actions in the coming days would be to review all the executive orders, all the executive orders taken by Trump in recent months to correct them.
Who are the officials who will be in charge of Africa in the executive branch? What are the names already circulating in Washington?
We are waiting to know who will be the new Deputy Secretary of State for African Affairs at the level of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, because it is a key position, as it is this person who will manage relations between the states on a daily basis. United and the continent. But we already know that Biden appointed Mrs Dana L. Banks, a career diplomat who knows the continent, as Africa director at the level of the National Security Council. This would mean that already at the level of the White House there will be an Africanist, someone who knows the continent, who will support the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the implementation of African policy.
Which was not the case until now?
What was not the case during the Trump administration at the level of the National Security Council, Africa was very poorly represented. And with personalities like Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who will be in the United Nations, and Ambassador Samantha Power, who will be Director of the International Development Agency, which is an important instrument in bilateral relations between states – United States and Africa. This team will be able to make real progress compared to what we have experienced over the last four years.
The US Congress under Trump had repeatedly condemned human rights violations in some countries on the continent. But this Congress did not find an echo within the executive branch. Can this be expected to change with the new administration?
Yes, precisely because not only [Joe] Biden is a former senator. So he has affiliations with Congress, but also because Democrats have a majority. So most legislators who previously took relatively strong and well-known positions on the continent. Now that they have to adopt a majority and that they want a strong ally in the White House, it is not out of the question that the vote of Congress weighs more.
And from an economic point of view, do we have any idea what type of policy the new team can run against Africa??
First of all, I believe that existing mechanisms, such as the path that promotes free trade between the continent and Africa, must be maintained and strengthened. Other initiatives that had been adopted during the Barack Obama period, such as Power Africa [vaste plan d’électrification de l’Afrique subsaharienne], must be strengthened. This should further promote economic exchanges in order to strengthen and consolidate the economic development of the continent.