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From the start of his term, US President Joe Biden advocated for closer cooperation with Africa to turn the page 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 Ivory Coast and Ghana and pledged a partnership win-win.
To seduce a continent which is three times the size of the United States and which is courted by all the world powers, Washington knows that it must convince. After Donald Trump’s excesses and the manifest contempt he displayed, the Biden administration is showing more respect, emphasizing a partnership “ without exploitation “.
” The United States is committed to being a supportive partner in a process of mutual respect, Don Graves, Assistant Secretary of Commerce, pleaded Tuesday. This is not about tapping and squeezing out of Africa but about a win-win partnership in which we invest not only in infrastructure but also in human capital, being careful not to bring our manpower to do the job “, he said during an online press briefing.
Infrastructure and raw materials
This must be understood as Washington’s stated desire to distinguish itself from China, whose major infrastructure projects employ very little local labor and often lead to significant debts for African countries.
If the speech of Washington seems turned towards the development, Michael Shurkin, political analyst within the Rand Corporation, maintains that the raw materials should not be neglected.
“ I think Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine have taught us all the importance of diversifying our supply chains and protecting them. We must guarantee reliable access to lithium and other precious metals, and above all prevent China from exercising a monopoly on these materials. »
Arm wrestling with China
However, focusing on China would be a mistake, says Scott Lucas, honorary professor at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.
“ The United States must not enter into a showdown with China. Africa should not be a mere 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 concerns of the communities. “, he told RFI.
Last November in Nigeria, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken insisted that Africa is “ central to US foreign policy “. This policy must take into account the specificities of the 55 African countries judge Lucas.
Not a model for all
” It is not a question of imposing its own policy on African countries. There is no one American model for everyone. We must therefore provide for the economic development of Africa, but at the same time leave African governments the possibility of developing their own projects. “, insists the specialist.
Therefore, favoring a collaborative approach to support African initiatives, such as the new Zlecaf, the continental free trade area, is “ a promising vision according to Don Graves, Assistant Secretary for Commerce, before recalling that we must not forget AGOA, the Law on Growth and Development Opportunities in Africa. It allows African countries to export their products to the American market without customs duties, an essential tool in trade between the United States and Africa.
AGOA is coming to an 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. Bosses like Stéphane Aka Anghui, executive director of the General Confederation of Businesses of Côte d’Ivoire.
” We export around 700 billion CFA francs to the United States, if they don’t replace it and it stops, that will worry me. »
words and expectations
The visit of the Assistant Secretary of Commerce concluded 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’s not enough, because you have to be obsessed with implementation and immediately set up very operational teams so that it’s not just another theoretical tool and very quickly you see the change. »
Africans therefore expect concrete actions from the Biden administration and not just words.