By: Aude Darnal
What is the kernel of the issue?
The US foreign policy community is adding great power competition with China to the focus of US engagement strategy with Africa, which has been mostly oriented towards counterterrorism. This makes the region a battlefield for its policy towards China and is likely to create unnecessary tensions, as it subordinates African states to the role of pawns and undervalues their increasing power in the international system.
Why is the issue important?
Without an ambitious standalone strategy for Africa, the United States misses an opportunity to capitalize on mutually beneficial shared interests and risks antagonizing African leaders. African countries will not be mere spectators of a new “scramble for Africa,” nor will they accept pressure from the world’s leading powers. The region’s leaders rightfully claim a seat at the table of international affairs, and US officials should support that claim. The United States can secure greater trade partnerships and knowledge sharing by capitalizing on Africa’s fast economic growth, abundant human workforce, technological innovations, and growing power, particularly in light of the recently launched African Free Trade Area. The region’s countries can also be valuable diplomatic partners, especially on global issues such as climate change and health.
What is the recommendation?
The Biden administration should craft an engagement strategy with Africa for its own sake that acknowledges the continent’s value and global role if it wants to remain an attractive and strategic partner for this increasingly important region. A more audacious and diversified strategy – departing from an overly militarized policy that has so far failed – based on mutually beneficial partnerships will translate a modern vision for US-Africa relations built on shared understanding, and that is aligned with both US and African expectations and interests. This will create new avenues for cooperation and mutual prosperity that will, along the way, support the continent’s efforts towards peace and stability by helping its societies’ development.