The United States wants a “true partnership” with Africa, its Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, announced on Monday in Pretoria, while assuring that it does not seek to “surpass” the influence of other world powers on the continent, with China and Russia in the lead.
“What we seek above all is a true partnership between the United States and Africa. We don’t want an unbalanced or transactional relationship,” Blinken said during a press briefing with his South African counterpart, Naledi Pandor.
“The United States will not dictate Africa’s choices and no one else should,” he said later in a speech at the University of Pretoria. “The right to make these choices belongs to Africans alone.”
“Too often, African nations have been treated as instruments of other nations’ progress, rather than authors of their own progress,” he insisted.
At the same time, Washington unveiled a policy document announcing an all-out overhaul of its policy in sub-Saharan Africa, where the Americans intend to counter the Russian and Chinese presence and in particular develop non-military approaches against terrorism.
This new strategy, which recognizes in passing the growing demographic importance of Africa, its weight in the United Nations as well as its immense natural resources and its opportunities, comes at a time when the emphasis placed by the United States on the military struggle against extremist groups in Africa is criticized for its ineffectiveness.
“The poor governance, exclusion and corruption inherent in weak democracies make them more vulnerable to extremist movements, as well as foreign interference,” Blinken said. ” This includes [la société] Wagner backed by the Kremlin, which exploits instability to plunder resources and commits abuses with impunity,” he added.
His visit to Pretoria, the first stage of an African tour which should take him to Kinshasa and Kigali in the coming days, aims to try to bring South African diplomacy closer to the Western camp and thwart Russian influence on the continent, according to several experts.
She shortly follows the tour in Africa at the end of July of her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
But on Monday, the English-French bilingual secretary of state swore that his country did not see the region as the “last playing field in a great power competition”.
“That’s fundamentally not how we see it,” he insisted. “Our commitment to a stronger partnership with Africa is not about trying to outdo anyone.”
The attention of the United States for Africa has often been relegated to the background and the American government says it wants to change the dynamic.
“Today is not the culmination of our partnership. But this is the start of a new chapter. President (Joe) Biden is looking forward to welcoming (South African) President Cyril Ramaphosa to Washington next month,” ahead of a US-Africa summit scheduled for December 13 in Washington.
South Africa has taken a neutral stance since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February and refused to join Western calls to condemn Moscow.
Its Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mrs Pandor, regretted on this point the speeches of “condescending intimidation” of several countries, European in particular, with regard to South Africa, thanking Washington for having spared him this your.
On Ukraine, she added: “We are appalled by the war”, not a single South African supports it. But she referred to the current tensions in Gaza to say, “We should be just as concerned about what happens to the people of Palestine as what happens to the people of Ukraine.”
Mr. Blinken also once again regretted the recent Chinese withdrawal from crucial bilateral climate dialogues, in the context of tensions around Taiwan, a “deeply unfortunate” decision which “punishes the whole world”, he said. he pointed out during the press briefing.
Already on Saturday in Manila, he denounced the “total disproportion” of the Chinese reaction.