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The US-Africa Leaders Summit

  NIAS Africa Team

Africa Weekly #43, Vol. 1, No. 43
20 December 2022


The US-Africa Leaders Summit: Four takeaways
The diplomatic visits, engagements, and summits on Africa in 2022 testify to the speculations of a new Scramble for Africa. However, to ensure a new and sustained engagement, all players need to treat Africa as an equal player, and not a mere pawn in global politics.
By Apoorva Sudhakar 

On 13 December, following an eight-year gap, the Second US-Africa Leaders Summit commenced in Washington. The three-day summit marked the first major interaction between the US and the continent, after former US President Donald Trump’s administration. Washington invited heads of states and delegations from 49 African countries, except from Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Sudan and Eritrea.
Major statements
On 15 December - the last day of the summit - US President Joe Biden announced his support for the African Union’s membership at the G20 and an African representative at the UN Security Council. Biden said: “The US is all in on Africa’s future.” He said: “Africa belongs at the table in every room – in every room where global challenges are being discussed, and in every institution where discussions are taking place.”
Biden also announced that he would visit Sub-Saharan Africa soon, and would also ask the US Vice President, Secretary of State, Treasury Secretary and Commerce Secretary to visit Africa. The White House press release listed initiatives announced in the summit, including establishment of a new diaspora council; expansion of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI); an MoU between the US and an African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat; establishment of the African Democratic and Political Transitions (ADAPT); and a range of financial support for climate adaptation, food security, and peace and security.
Meanwhile, as was expected, on 14 December, Biden talked about other major powers involved in Africa; he said the US was committed to limiting the increasing influence of China and Russia in Africa. Biden outlined the US goal towards “a new 21st Century Partnership for African Security.” On the same day, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson called on the US to “respect the will of the African people and take concrete actions to help Africa’s development, instead of unremittingly smearing and attacking other countries.” The spokesperson said: “Africa is not an arena for great power confrontation or a target for arbitrary pressure by certain countries or individuals.”
On 14 December, Ghana’s President and Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Nana Akufo-Addo met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and expressed concern over the presence of Russian mercenaries in Africa. Akufo-Addo called on Africa to stop “begging” the West to earn international respect and thereby, change the weak perceptions across the world, about Africa. BBC quoted Akufo-Addo: “If we stop being beggars and spend African money inside the continent, Africa will not need to ask for respect from anyone, we will get the respect we deserve. If we make it prosperous as it should be, respect will follow.”
Three takeaways
First, reviving relations with Africa. The first US-Africa Leaders Summit, perhaps the first largest interaction the US had with African countries, was held in 2014 under former President Barack Obama. The summit focused on trade, investment, cooperation on gender, health, governanc. Since 2017, Trump’s unwillingness to engage with the rest of the world, stagnated the US relations with Africa. In its attempt to improve its Africa relations, the US has drawn the latest summit’s objective from the first one.
Second, the focus on trade. Throughout both summits, the US emphasized on the need for trade and investment in Africa.  In 2009, China surpassed the US to become Africa’s largest trading and currently, is also Africa's largest lender and accounts for the highest foreign direct investment. Simultaneously, China also worked on its Belt and Road Initiative in Africa. Therefore, by focusing on trade and investment, the US is aiming for the best possible engagement currently, as Africa is a competitive market with the engagement of major players like China, India and Japan. Further, Africa is also home to an emerging regional market facilitated by the AfCFTA that would bring forth the economic potential of the continent.
Third, the reference to Russia and China. Though no major decisions were announced to limit the influence of the above two powers, Biden’s hint to address the issue indicates that Washington sees a potential challenge to the US’ already-diminished influence in the continent. Meanwhile, the US decision to not invite countries that witnessed coups over the last two years indicates its unwillingness to engage with non-democratic countries, where Russia and China already have deep inroads. Therefore, if the US wishes to limit the Russian and Chinese influence in Africa, it has to provide an attractive alternative to the African countries.
Fourth, big powers in Africa. Several political leaders have visited Africa in 2022, prior to Biden’s announcement to visit Africa. In July, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov toured Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda and the Republic of Congo, aiming to convince them that Moscow would not let the Ukraine war affect Africa. Simultaneously, French President Emmanuel Macron visited Cameroon, Benin and Guinea-Bissau amid France’s currently-tumultuous relations with a few African countries. In October, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba visited Kenya, Senegal, Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire to counter the Russian visit. Meanwhile, China has a strong diplomatic engagement wherein for the last 32 years, the first diplomatic visit from Beijing would be to Africa during New Year’s. Since 2000, Beijing has also been conducting the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation every three years. The series of visits indicates that Africa is an emerging key player in global politics. The diplomatic engagements signal efforts of different countries to court African countries and win their support at the international stage.
Therefore, the second US-Africa Leaders Summit highlights Biden’s efforts to rekindle the US relations with Africa. However, amid the above developments, if the US wishes to revive its Africa relations, it has to rectify the eight-year gap between the two summits and ensure that commitments in both summits are followed through and do not remain initiatives, just on paper. The diplomatic visits, engagements, and summits to Africa in 2022 also testify to the speculations of a new Scramble for Africa. However, to ensure a new and sustained engagement, all players need to treat Africa as an equal player, and not a mere pawn in global politics.
(Note: Parts of this commentary were previously published in The World This Week)

13 December - 19 December
Apoorva Sudhakar and Anu Maria Joseph 


Tigray praise flow of medical supplies
On 13 December, Tigray health authorities praised the flow of medical supplies to previously war-driven northern Ethiopia following the peace deal signed between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The TPLF-run Tigray TV report said: “The Tigray Health Bureau has said basic medicines and medical equipment are flowing into Tigray and being distributed to health institutions following the ceasefire agreement.” The head of Tigray’s health office said: “One good news is that the first cargo plane landed last Thursday (8 December) carrying vaccines for children. We are very happy Unicef gave us the medicines it received from the Ethiopian government.” (“Ethiopia rebels praise 'flow of medical aid into Tigray',” BBC, 13 December 2022)


IPC warns of famine early next year
On 13 December, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) assessment said that Somalia narrowly avoided a full scale famine this year.  It added that avoiding famine doesn’t mean avoiding misery, hunger, and deaths and that millions of people living in worse humanitarian conditions would triple in 2023. This means over 700,000 people will face dire hunger unless proper assistance is provided. It further added, if the condition continues, famine could be declared as early as April 2023. ("Somalia famine narrowly avoided this year - official report," BBC, 13 December 2022)


Uganda: ICC upholds Ongwen’s sentence
On 14 December, the International Criminal Court upheld the conviction of a former child soldier Dominic Ongwen, who later became the commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army. In 2021, Ongwen was sentenced to 25 years in prison for rape, murder and child abduction. During the appeal against the conviction, Ongwen’s lawyers argued that he could not be held responsible for his acts because he was kidnapped as a nine-year-old and recruited as a child soldier. However, the judges maintained that Ongwen was acting independently at the time of the crimes. (“ICC upholds sentence of Uganda child soldier turned LRA commander,” Al Jazeera, 15 December 2022)


UN expresses dismay at increased violence in Upper Nile
On 13 December, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk expressed shock at the attacks on civilians by armed groups in the Upper Nile state. Türk called on the government to ensure an impartial investigation into “These killings, along with reports of gender-based violence, abductions, destruction of property and looting.” The statement comes at least 166 people were killed and 237 were wounded in inter-community clashes in four months. Meanwhile, a UN Special Rapporteur outlined the prevalence of conflict-related sexual violence and trafficking. (“South Sudan: UN rights chief appeals for end to ‘senseless violence’ in Upper Nile state,” UN News, 14 December 2022)


27 migrants found dead in desert
On 13 December, the International Organization for Migration said 27 migrants, including four children, had been found dead in a desert in Chad; the IOM said the migrants died of thirst after the truck they were travelling in from west-central Chad broke down. The IOM said that in the last eight years, 5,600 people have either died or gone missing while crossing the Sahara Desert to north African countries like Libya, which serve as a transit to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea. (“Bodies of 27 migrants found in Chad desert, says UN group,” ABC News, 13 December 2022)


IMF approves USD 319 billion as climate payout
On 13 December, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved USD 319 billion for Rwanda through a new climate change programme, supporting the country's “ambitious agenda to build resilience to climate change and help to catalyse further financing.” Rwanda is the first African country to be funded by the Resilience and Sustainability Facility (RSF) - an IMF programme meant to support countries addressing climate change with long-term and low cost financing. (“Rwanda gets Africa's first IMF climate payout,” BBC, 13 December 2022)


Last French troops depart
On 15 December, the last French troops deployed - 47 personnel of a logistical unit - departed from the Central African Republic. France24 referred to an AFP news report quoting the commander of French forces in Gabon: “France decided that the conditions were no longer appropriate for us to continue working for the benefit of the Central African armed forces.” (“Last French troops leave Central African Republic amid closer Bangui-Moscow ties,” France24, 15 December 2022)


Floods claim over 120 lives in Kinshasa
On 14 December, BBC reported that over 120 people had been killed in the floods and landslides in capital city Kinshasa. Major roads, including the N1 highway connecting Kinshasa to the Matadi port, are submerged. On 13 December, Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde visited the affected areas and said the search for more bodies was continuing. Meanwhile, President Félix Tshisekedi who is in Washington for the US-African Union summit said the floods were something that the DRC had been deploring; outlining the impact of climate change, Tshisekedi said: “The DRC is under pressure but unfortunately it's not sufficiently heard or supported.” (“Worst floods in years kill 120 people in DR Congo,” BBC, 13 December 2022)


IMF sign agreement for USD 3 billion bailout
On 13 December, the IMF signed an initial agreement with Ghana for a bailout programme of USD 3 billion. The programme termed as the Extended Credit Facility would run for three years, formed to help Ghana in restoring its economic stability and ensure debt sustainability. In October, the country's inflation rate reached a record high to over 40 per cent. However, Ghana’s currency, the cedi, rallied against the US dollar besides losing half of its value initially this year. (“Ghana set to get $3bn IMF bailout,” BBC, 13 December 2022) 

Inflation reaches 50.3 per cent
On 14 December, Reuters reported that the consumer inflation rate had reached 50.3 per cent in November, the highest in 21 years and an increase from the 40.4 per cent in the previous month. The development comes after Ghana signed a staff-level agreement for USD three billion with the IMF. On 13 December, the finance minister said the government had begun restructuring domestic debt and was looking to restructure external debt. (Cooper Inveen and Christian Akorlie, “Ghana inflation hits 21-year high above 50% in November,” Reuters, 14 December 2022)

Zambia and Zimbabwe: Water level drop in Lake Kariba forces to ration power supply
On 15 December, BBC reported, Zambia began to ration its power supply following a large decrease in the water levels at Lake Kariba, a major source for its hydro-electric power plants. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe, which shares the lake with Zambia, had introduced an 18-hour power outage the previous week. Zimbabwe is now restricted to producing 300MW and Zambia 800 MW daily. Frequent droughts along with low rainfall and excessive use of water for power generation has caused the significant decrease of water levels in Lake Kariba. In Zambia, domestic consumers currently face a six hour outage per day and authorities say the power rationing is to avoid a complete shutdown. (“Zambia forced to ration power supply,” BBC, 15 December 2022)


DRC objects to COP15 agreement
On 19 December, Democratic Republic of the Congo objected to the agreement signed at the UN Biodiversity Summit, also known as COP15. Environment Minister Ève Bazaiba said the DRC would raise its objections with the UN Secretary-General and the Convention on Biological Diversity. The DRC is home to the second-largest tropical rainforest and is home to critical ecosystems. The Guardian quoted Bazaiba: "We don’t need people to tell us to conserve it. Those who are asking us to protect our rainforests, to help humanity, we are asking those responsible for pollution for compensation. If they refuse, we are going to manage our own biodiversity." (Patrick Greenfield and Phoebe Weston, "We didn’t accept it’: DRC minister laments forcing through of Cop15 deal," The Guardian, 19 December 2022)


Morocco advances into FIFA semi-finals, gets defeated by France
On 14 December, France defeated Morocco at the FIFA World Cup sem-finals with a 2-0 lead. On 10 December, Morocco became the first African and first Arab country to reach the semi-finals after defeating Portugal with a 1-0 victory. Morocco's qualification to the semi-finals sparked jubilation across Africa and the Middle East. (Rory Jiwani, "France end Morocco's dream to reach second consecutive World Cup final," Olympics, 15 December 2022)

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