The African continent’s political and economic landscape is undergoing severe disruptions due to a whirlwind of demographic, geostrategic, and technological developments. Consequently, African countries are redefining the rules and playbook of competition and cooperation and are forging closer partnerships with emerging countries. Although the United States of America remains an important trade and investment partner for African countries, it has failed to keep up with the dynamism and evolving aspirations of African countries. The US’s military-first and zero-sum policy of competing head-to-head with China in Africa has not been optimum. Many times, the US seemed to discredit the values it most wanted to promote overseas – the rule of law and democratic norms. Now with Joe Biden’s election win, his administration has an opportunity to recalibrate, reimagine, and chart a US foreign policy course that aligns with the aspirations, values, and development priorities of the African public and elite.
In the run up to the elections, Biden’s campaign specifically focused on the African diasporic community and published, “The Biden-Harris Agenda for the Diaspora”. The document not only affirms diasporic values such as family, opportunity, and desire to contribute to American growth and prosperity, but also pays due attention to issues of particular concern to Africans in the United States like immigration and the US policy towards Africa. On immigration, Biden’s administration has renewed commitment to family unification, diversity, and to re-establish the US as a place of refuge.
As for US relations with Africa, Biden’s administration has reaffirmed American support for African democracy and economic growth, and has endorsed a continuation of President Obama’s popular Young African Leaders Initiative. However, Biden’s campaign has been careful not to overpromise. It has neither referenced an increase in US federal spending on African aid and development, nor has it committed to deepen US involvement in Africa’s security challenges. Going forward, President Biden’s cabinet appointments for key senior positions such as Secretary, Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, and the administrator for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) will be interesting to note.
A Biden Presidency is certainly a welcome relief for Africa as the US diplomatic and aid efforts towards jobs, health, infrastructure, immigration, education, climate change, and respect for human rights will receive the most support from the African public and will make America more competitive on the continent.