In a new policy statement for sub-Saharan Africa, the United States emphasized the significance of the region, the dangers presented by China and Russia, and its commitment to extending defence cooperation with like-minded African nations. According to the statement, the United States has a long-standing interest in making sure the region is open and accessible to everyone and that governments and the public can make their own political decisions under international obligations.

It builds on a speech given by American Secretary of State Antony Blinken in November, which outlined the Biden administration's strategy toward Africa. Its debut coincides with Blinken's trips to South Africa and two other African nations in the week beginning August 7. In November, Blinken said that to assist Africa with its infrastructure needs, Washington would need to act differently and that it was past time to stop considering the continent as a geopolitical pawn and start recognizing it as a significant actor in its own right.

The brief trip to three African nations by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is his second in less than a year. He paid important regional allies of the US, Senegal, Kenya, and Nigeria, visits in November 2021. Blinken introduced the U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa in South Africa, the first stop on this journey, signalling a notable paradigmatic shift in America's involvement with Africa.

Blinken also urged African leaders to take precautions against corruption, authoritarianism, and increasing extremism. According to the new report, and using the initials of China's official name, the Pentagon will work with African partners "to expose and emphasize the risks of negative PRC and Russian activities in Africa" under the 2022 U.S. National Defense Strategy.

Washington would also "examine and reinvest" in strategies for working with the African military, particularly in initiatives that support the development of institutional capacity, the fight against corruption, and reforms. The report stated that to promote free, democratic, and resilient countries as well as to combat destabilizing challenges, especially those in Africa, effective, legitimate, and accountable military and other security forces were necessary.

Washington said it would seek to strengthen African capacity to address climate change and support "accelerators" for sustainable development in partnership with nations and regional organizations, including the African Union. These included investments in health systems, the digitization of financial services and records, and upgrades to supply chains for essential commodities.

The U.S. Agency for International Development would try to make access to online courses easier, according to the newspaper, while Washington would attempt to assure affordable Internet connection. According to the statement, African security is crucial to U.S. allies and partners in Europe, the Middle East, and the Indo-Pacific, who are dedicated to cooperating with Washington.

China, on the other hand, considered the region "an important arena to challenge the rules-based international order, advance its own limited geopolitical and commercial objectives, erode transparency and openness, and weaken U.S. connections with African peoples and governments," the study said.

According to Russia, private military enterprises and parastatals frequently instigate unrest in Africa for strategic and financial gain. Africa needs billions of dollars annually for power, roads, dams, and other infrastructure. Over the past ten years, China, which typically does not bind financial aid to political or rights-related restrictions, has donated enormous sums to Africa. Washington has emphasized encouraging private investment while criticizing Chinese loans as exploitative and possibly creating debt traps; yet, officials acknowledge that more needs to be done to expedite help.

Some have accused the Biden administration of being unresponsive to Africa, which is a recurring criticism of U.S. foreign policy but one that has gained more resonance as China has established stronger political and economic ties with the region. According to the statement, US friends and partners in Europe, the Middle East, and the Indo-Pacific regard cooperating with Washington as a priority and view Africa as being essential to their national security. China, on the other hand, considered the region "an important arena to challenge the rules-based international order, advance its own specific commercial and geopolitical interests, undermine transparency and openness, and weaken US relations with African peoples and governments," according to the paper.

Washington has emphasized encouraging private investment while criticizing Chinese loans as exploitative and possibly creating debt traps; yet, officials acknowledge that more needs to be done to expedite help. Some have accused the Biden administration of being unresponsive to Africa, which is a common criticism of US foreign policy but one that has gained more resonance as China has consolidated its political and economic influence on the continent.

Possible Change in African policy to look West?

The tone for US engagement with Africa is set favourably by this new paper. Previous US plans were founded on the idea that, in the grand picture of American foreign policy, Africa was not a strategic actor. This tactic is unique. It assumes that one of the main focuses of US foreign policy in Africa. This guiding presumption serves as a framework for the underlying commitment to cooperating in the pursuit of shared goals. The emphasis on African agency matches the tone. Moreover, the continent's capacity for effective leadership and participation in decisions about its military, political, and economic affairs.

Significance of Blinken’s visit to Africa

The US's desire to reengage the South African administration within the framework of the US-South Africa Strategic Dialogue was highlighted by the visit to South Africa. The Barack Obama administration created this in 2010 to strengthen the bonds between the two parties.

The conversation offers a venue for discussing shared goals and aspirations while also resolving lingering differences between the spouses. However, it was stopped when the COVID-19 crisis started and the Donald Trump administration took office. One of the few African nations with this form of the strategic alliance with the US is South Africa. Consequently, the conference strengthens South Africa's position as an African actor that Washington regards seriously. This is true despite disagreements that both parties should be able to resolve amicably.

Blinken's proposed method has four main goals. These include promoting openness and democratic security dividends, enhancing pandemic recovery and potential for economic growth, and promoting environmental protection, climate adaptation, and just energy transition. The US International Development Agency's (USAID) involvement in the education sector is a creative notion. It has been proposed that private businesses and academic institutions in the US offer online courses to African students. Science, technology, engineering, and math are possible subjects. Additionally, the strategy emphasizes the importance of cities, digital democracy, and including the African American diaspora in US-Africa relations.

Beyond this, the four aims capture the consistency of the policies put forth by earlier governments. Therefore, rather than a substantive change, the strategy is to be altered in tone. Third, the strategy is heavily influenced by racial sensitivities, which is indicative of the fusion of Africanists and African Americans in the Biden administration's Africa policy. The US unveiled a new strategy to forge closer relations with sub-Saharan Africa while contending that China and Russia were motivated by limited self-interests in their attempts to strengthen ties with the region. Mentions of placing people of colour at the centre of US-Africa relations can be found throughout the document.

The White House stated in a document released on Monday to coincide with Secretary of State Antony Blinken's trip to South Africa that Africa has a crucial role to play in addressing the world's defining challenges due to its one of the fastest growing populations, largest free-trade areas by geographic area, and most diverse set of ecosystems. These include putting a stop to the coronavirus pandemic, combating climate change, world hunger, terrorism, and reversing democratic losses.

Given that only 1.2% of the US's total two-way commerce is with Sub-Saharan Africa, the continent has never been a high priority for the US in terms of international relations. Since the passage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act in 2000, which abolished US import taxes on more than 7,000 products from African nations that lower barriers to US investment, run market-based economies, and uphold workers' rights, flows have surged.

However, the continent has developed even deeper ties with China, which has mostly avoided domestic politics and provided assistance, loans, and investment with minimal conditions. While western nations attempted to isolate Russia over its invasion of Ukraine in recent months, a sizable minority of governments on the continent refused to denounce its actions. As a result, Russia has also effectively bolstered relations with Africa.

Building democracy and enhancing governance, fostering development, peace, security trade and investment, and supporting conservation and a transition to cleaner energy is among the top priorities of US foreign policy in Africa. These priorities are similar to those that Blinken outlined in November of last year. At the time, he emphasized that the US did not wish to restrict Africa's cooperation with other nations. However, in light of the deterioration in Washington's relations with Russia and China, this position now seems to have changed.