Biden remembers Africa
Biden remembers Africa, but only because Xi and Putin never forgot the continent
Finally, after several decades of neglect, the US administration suddenly remembered the existence of a vast continent full of mineral and oil resources called Africa. The summit of 50 African leaders it hosted last week was intended to extend an indirect apology for that neglect and arrogance and try to build economic partnerships to restore trust and turn a new leaf in relations.
The African leaders who converged on Washington have China, and to a lesser extent Russia and Turkey, to thank for the red-carpet receptions they were given. These countries have been interested in Africa for decades and have played the greatest part in developing its infrastructure, extending loans and financial aid, and providing needed skills in various fields.
The feting of Chinese President Xi Jinping in Riyadh, where he attended three summits (bilateral, Chinese/GCC, and Chinese/Arab) and inked some $100bn worth of trade deals, came as a rude awakening to the US. So did the refusal of most African leaders to comply with US demands to condemn Russia for invading Ukrainian territory.
The US has lost most of the countries in the Middle East, including the Gulf states with their vast oil and gas reserves and trillions of dollars in financial assets and sovereign funds. Hence its hasty turn towards Africa in a bid to recoup at least part of its losses.
In 2021, while China’s trade with Africa amounted to some $261bn, the US stood at barely $64 billion. Even the
$55 billion in aid which Biden pledged for the entire continent of Africa over a three-year period, is less the amount he gave to Ukraine in just nine months ($60 billion) — not including the latest $40 billion package approved by Congress, or the more to come.
The US approach to dealing with Africa has always been condescending and high-handed. The invitations sent to the 50 African leaders were more like summonses. If Biden was really interested in engaging with them and serious about his intentions, he could have taken the trouble to go and meet them on their own turf, just as he went meekly to Riyadh to beg its forgiveness. But he did not.
African Union chair and Senegalese President Macky Sall painted summed up that attitude when he told
the New York Times ‘when we talk [to the Americans], we’re often not listened to,’ and that the US does not keep its promises or accord Africa the respect it deserves. He could have added that President Putin gave African leaders a respectful welcome at Sochi, and President Xi provided over $60 billion in immediate development aid for the continent when he met with them earlier this year.
Biden’s sudden recollection of the African continent and the extravagant hospitality laid on for its leaders mark the start of a belated US political and strategic reassessment. It is driven mainly by fear of the powerful competition from Beijing and Moscow which has laid the cornerstone for a multipolar world order and is steadily dethroning Washington as a global hegemon.
The late Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi must be given his due. He was the first to wager on Africa, invest in its development, recognise its potential, and foresee its future ascendancy. He was a key co-founder of the AU in its present form and bought tens of tons of gold to back a new African Dinar as an alternative to the US dollar and Western currencies and create a stable independent financial system for the continent. This is why NATO led by the US decided to depose and assassinate him, with the collusion of the Arab League and some of its governments, under the fake pretext of promoting democracy and human rights.
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