U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Africa this week for a three-country tour that saw him visit South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. While there, he took the opportunity to unveil the Biden administration’s new approach for deepening U.S. ties with African nations.
The strategy document serves as a welcome acknowledgement that Africa as a continent and the nations it comprises have become a more vocal and active force in global politics. For now, this trend has bumped up against the limits of existing power relations, meaning that from climate diplomacy to the distribution of coronavirus vaccines, African governments are often excluded from decision-making processes that have enormous consequences for their economic development and the well-being of their populations.
But in seeking to redefine Washington’s relationships with African nations as mutually beneficial partnerships in which both sides’ needs must be reflected, the Biden team’s approach represents at least an improvement in messaging from even a few months ago, when Washington resorted to browbeating African governments that refused to vote for a United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Now the message is that the U.S. simply wants to offer African countries a choice, not force them to make one.