Next Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will undertake his first trip to Africa. He will take the leadership of Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal. What are the challenges of this tour?
Antony Blinken's trip is an event: it will undoubtedly be the most high-profile visit to date by a Biden administration official to Africa. A trip that takes place in a particular context, which the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, describes as an “epidemic of coups d'état” in Africa.
Sudan, Chad, Mali, Guinea… Since the beginning of the year and the arrival of Biden at the White House, numerous putschs have indeed taken place on the continent. A continent also marked by the Ethiopian civil war, which has lasted too long. But then, why did the US Secretary of State choose Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal as the destinations of his African tour?
Joe Biden had made a lot of promises to Africa, but the US president was slow to make them come true. In this case, that of committing to lifting the ban on travel from African countries, decreed by his predecessor Donald Trump who considered these countries to be “rat holes”. Biden was also committed to strengthening relations between the United States and African countries. Gold, under the Biden administration, eleven months after his installation in the White House, the United States has not changed its tune on most files.
The United States, friends who wish us well?
On the security front, after a noticeable withdrawal of American forces in Somalia, the bombing of the American air force resumed, this time illegally. In the Sahel, if Trump had called for not directly supporting French troops - Macron "bites more than he can swallow", said the former US president - the situation is different today. Since Biden came to power, US troops are five military ground exercises in Burkina Faso, Morocco and Egypt, and the US military plans to resume the famous Flintock exercise at the start of the year. 2022. The Pentagon signed a memorandum in July on arming Takuba's future European troops, through the NSPA, the US NATO gunsmith.
We are therefore far from the “equal to equal” relationship with African states, promised by Joe Biden at the start of his mandate. Because the United States is playing the game of war providers in Africa. On the economic side, Washington has literally let go of Africa. According to the Brookings Institute, US direct investment in Africa will continue to fall, which began in 2014, at the end of the current fiscal year. In the financial sector, US injections into African economies are at their lowest level since 2015, dropping 9%.
And the real numbers are even more disappointing, as US public donors have given way to private US banks. Thus, we remember the repurchase of Ghanaian and Moroccan European debts, in which the American government had nothing to do with it.
Finally, with regard to import-export trade, African exports exceed American imports. The context was however rather encouraging between 2011 and 2013. But since 2015, the total mass of trade of sub-Saharan African States with China is twice as important as that with the United States.
Stakeholder in vaccine apartheid in Africa
Diplomatically, Antony Blinken's favorite playground, things haven't been much better. With the Covid-19 pandemic, and the installation of vaccine apartheid initiated by pharmaceutical companies, Joe Biden has raised the question on numerous occasions. So much so that the American president ended up announcing his support for African countries wishing to obtain licenses to manufacture vaccines at the national level. He had even managed to impose his will on the World Trade Organization (WTO), France, Switzerland and Germany, all openly opposed to the idea.
Since then, nothing! African vaccine-producing countries have also had to turn to other powers. Of course, vaccine aid continued to flow from the United States, particularly in Libya, Senegal, Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania ... But the question of transfer of intellectual property of vaccines to Africa no longer appears to be the priority of the Biden administration. In Senegal and Rwanda, partners in vaccine production, European and national funds have also been mobilized. In the case of Algeria and Egypt, infrastructure has been the subject of partnerships with Russia and the United Arab Emirates.
On the side of the United States, beyond the promises, actions are still pending. And the Biden administration continued, without saying so, the vaccine nationalism initiated by Donald Trump, especially vis-à-vis Africa.
Antony Blinken's tongue-in-cheek
So what is Antony Blinken doing in Africa ? The US Secretary of State has chosen cautious destinations for this first diplomatic visit to the continent. His cabinet issued a statement detailing the objectives of the visit. In Nairobi, he intends to "advance American-Kenyan cooperation to end Covid-19, improve access to clean energy and protect the environment". Here again, the report is bitter: despite American aid, Kenya is still stagnating at 3,8% of people vaccinated. Energy-related methane emissions in the country of Uhuru Kenyatta increased from 21,5% in 2008 to 32,3% in 2020.
Beyond Kenya's privileged relationship with the United States - Uhuru Kenyatta was the first and only African president to be invited to the White House by Joe Biden this year - it is difficult to see Antony Blinken achieving the announced goals. short term.
Blinken's meeting with the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, will revolve, according to the US State Department, around “American-African politics”. However, according to Jon Temin, director of the Africa program at Freedom House, the Biden administration has been "slow to apply its diplomatic strategy in Africa". “Other than a diplomatic response to the civil war in Ethiopia and a few hints of other priority areas, such as trade and investment, Biden still has not developed a real strategy for the continent,” Temin writes in the Foreign Affairs magazine.
To end his tour, Antony Blinken will set foot on Senegalese soil. There, he will meet President Macky Sall, who will take over the presidency of the African Union in 2022. The intentions of the American Secretary of State are again untenable promises. He "will engage in events that will highlight America's strong trade relationship with Senegal, amplify the role of Senegalese women entrepreneurs and showcase the American partnership to fight the COVID-19 pandemic," says the press release from the US State Department.
Multiple announcements qualified as "airy words" - understand "tongue in cheek" - by the Democratic journalist who nevertheless supports Joe Biden body and soul, Rachel Maddow, on the MSNBC channel.