From the beginning of his term, US President Joe Biden advocated closer cooperation with Africa to turn the tables on the Trump years. Since his arrival at the White House, a diplomatic ballet has begun. Antony Blinken, the country’s first diplomat, visited the continent in November 2021. Last week, Assistant Secretary of Commerce Don Graves visited Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana and promised a win-win partnership.
To seduce a continent that is three times the size of the United States and courted by all world powers, Washington knows it must be persuaded. After Donald Trump’s exaggerations and the obvious contempt he showed, the Biden administration shows more respect and emphasizes a partnership “without exploitation”.
“The United States is determined to be a supportive partner in a process of mutual respect,” Don Graves, Deputy Secretary of Commerce, pleaded on Tuesday. in infrastructure, but also in human capital, and we are careful not to bring in our workforce to do the work, he said during an online press conference.
Infrastructure and raw materials With this we must understand Washington’s stated desire to differentiate itself from China, whose large infrastructure projects employ very little local labor and often lead to significant debts for African countries.
If Washington’s speeches seem to reverse the trend, Michael Shurkin, a political analyst at Rand Corporation, argues that commodities should not be neglected.
“I believe that Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine have taught us all the importance of diversifying and protecting our supply chains. We must ensure reliable access to lithium and other precious metals, and above all prevent China from monopolizing these materials.
Arm wrestling with China But focusing on China would be a mistake, says Scott Lucas, an honorary professor at the University of Birmingham in the UK.
“The United States must not conflict with China. Africa should not just be a pawn on the geopolitical chessboard. The more you do this, the more problems you will encounter, because this way of doing things will take you away from the real concern of the communities, ”he told RFI.
In November last year in Nigeria, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken insisted that Africa is “at the heart of US foreign policy”. This policy must take into account the specifics of Judge Lucas of the 55 African countries.
Not a model for everyone “It is not about imposing African policies on African countries. There is no American model for everyone. It is therefore necessary to ensure Africa’s economic development, but at the same time leave it to African governments the opportunity to develop their own projects, ”the specialist insists.
Fostering a co-operation strategy to support African initiatives, such as the new Zlecaf, the continental free trade area, is therefore “a promising vision” according to Don Graves, Deputy Secretary of Commerce, before reminding us not to forget AGOA, the African Growth and Opportunity Act . It allows African countries to export their products to the US market without customs duties, an important tool in trade between the US and Africa.
Agoa is nearing its end But there is a catch. Agoa expires in 2025 and no more than Donald Trump, Joe Biden does not seem in a hurry to replace it. A situation that worries the Ivorian employers that Don Graves met in Abidjan during the Africa CEO Forum. Managers such as Stéphane Aka Anghui, Executive Director of the General Confederation of Businesses of Côte d’Ivoire.
“We are exporting around 700 billion CFA francs to the United States, if they do not replace it for us and it stops, it will worry me.”
Words and expectations The visit of the Deputy Secretary of Commerce ended with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Washington and Abidjan to strengthen their partnership. A step forward for Stéphane Aka Anghui but which remains insufficient: “It is not enough, because we must be obsessed with implementation and immediately deploy very operational teams because it is not just another theoretical tool and we see the change very quickly . ”
Africans therefore expect concrete actions from the Biden administration and not just words.