Beginning on Tuesday, United States President Joe Biden is internet hosting African presidents, prime ministers and monarchs for a US-Africa Leaders’ Summit. Up to now, such glittering conferences have usually devolved into neo-colonial lectures, with African leaders passively listening to the US president hypocritically say out imprecise notions of spreading “liberal democracy” values.
However instances have modified. For all its challenges, Africa’s world stature is at its most tasty in trendy historical past – and our leaders should drive a tough monetary discount with the US, extracting most worth for the continent by their negotiations and discussions with Washington.
They have to not let the summit ebb into waffling lectures from the US on “values” it doesn’t itself apply at dwelling or overseas. As an alternative, African leaders should seize the microphone – and, if wanted, be uncompromising concerning the continent’s financial pursuits.
Africa is in demand
For many years the US didn’t prioritise Africa – Washington adopted an “anchor states” mannequin to Africa, working primarily by way of a handful of highly effective, regional actors to leverage affect. It might afford to do this, in good measure, as a result of its supremacy on the continent, as in different elements of the world, was largely unchallenged – particularly for the reason that finish of the Chilly Conflict.
That’s now not the case: China is the continent’s largest buying and selling associate, with mounting affect.
The US and European Union covet what Africa might supply: help on the warfare in Ukraine, cooperation in local weather change discount and entry to uncommon earth minerals crucial to the West’s competitors with Beijing on every thing from computing to stylish weaponry.
Which brings me to the strategic leverage that Africa immediately enjoys. The US-led West is eager to cut back Chinese language and Russian army forays into Africa. As an illustration, in November, Central Intelligence Agency Deputy Director David Cohen met Teodoro Nguema, inheritor to the throne within the oil-rich, deeply autocratic Atlantic Ocean state of Equatorial Guinea.
The US’s supreme curiosity in Equatorial Guinea is to prevent China from establishing a naval base on Africa’s important Atlantic coast – and thus dealing with the US East Coast. By no means thoughts democracy.
In different phrases, the US is aware of precisely what it desires to realize from Africa. Right here is the query, although: Does Africa know what it desires from the US?
Neutrality on Ukraine
When it grew to become obvious that many African nations would take a impartial place on the warfare however aggressively foyer all sides for an instantaneous finish to hostilities, Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, started circling Africa making an attempt to diplomatically upstage Russia. On this entrance, African leaders want to inform Biden that they may keep on with their present course, balancing relations between the West and Russia, whereas calling on all sides to cease harmful weapons build-ups and, in fact, the warfare.
Turkey and India can function examples. In spite of everything, the US and Russia are each weaponising the “pornographic” spectacle of meals shortages in Africa to soil one another’s picture.
On the cash
If there may be one space the place Africa immediately can negotiate tougher with the US, it’s on commodities, uncommon earth minerals and their financial partnership extra broadly.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, as an example, is dwelling to the world’s largest-known deposits of cobalt and is a significant supply of lithium — each of which the US craves in its fierce quest to beat China in next-generation computing, decarbonisation, and digital wargaming.
The US Protection Division has opened talks with Malawi’s miners to keep away from leaning an excessive amount of on China, which by 2019 was supplying 80 p.c of America’s valuable earth minerals.
The EU, which is Washington’s closest ally, is so determined for vitality amid the warfare in Ukraine that Mozambique began transport liquified pure gasoline to Europe in November. This partly helps reduce strain on the US to refill the EU’s Liquefied Pure Gasoline (LNG) storage tanks.
At a time when Russia is doling out mercenaries, and China money, to African leaders in alternate for strategic affect and sources, the US and its allies know that they can not afford enterprise as normal with the continent. So it is necessary that African leaders converse – as finest as potential – in a single voice to barter preferential commerce regimes and entry to finance at honest rates of interest.
There may be already proof that this may be performed: Take into account the case of Zambia, which counts China as its largest buying and selling associate. As Lusaka appears to restructure its sovereign debt, the US has requested Zambia’s collectors like China and France to just accept their losses. As Stephen Chan, a professor at London’s College of African and Oriental Research, said in November, we might now see “aggressive posturing” from the US and China to display who’s “extra beneficiant” in the direction of Zambia.
The Biden administration has already introduced that it’ll use the summit in Washington to pledge help for the African Union to be included within the G20 – an indication that the US recognises the rising clout of the continent. However African leaders ought to press for greater than only a seat on the world excessive desk.
They will study from supposedly staunch allies of the US, like Saudi Arabia, which drive laborious bargains with Washington to guard their nationwide pursuits, even when which means limiting oil manufacturing to maintain crude costs excessive. Saudi Arabia doesn’t simply tolerate intimidation from Washington. Nor ought to African nations.
Go huge or go dwelling
On the local weather talks, COP27, in Egypt in November, there was a glimmer of optimism that emerged within the method during which Africa carried out its local weather diplomacy. Presidents from Africa took to the rostrum to lambast the US and different industrialised nations for creating the local weather disaster and demanded tangible billions in local weather reparations funds.
Biden’s summit in Washington is a chance to construct on Africa’s standing as an influential geopolitical participant. Our leaders have to look their US counterparts within the eye, safe the very best offers potential for the continent and its particular person nations, and never let the US set the agenda with its hypocritical preaching on liberty and democracy.
The US is perhaps the world’s largest energy. However this may very well be Africa’s second.
The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.
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