Hard bargains, no lectures: What Africa needs at Biden’s summit | Politics

Starting Tuesday, US President Joe Biden will host African presidents, prime ministers and monarchs in a America-Africa Leaders Summit. In the past, such glittering meetings often turned into new colonial lecturewith African leaders passively listening to the hypocritical US president utter vague notions about spreading “liberal democratic” values.

But times have changed. For all its challenges, Africa’s global stature is at the most exciting moment in modern history – and our leaders must forge a tough financial bargain with the United States, bringing maximum value to the continent through negotiations. their judgment and discussions with Washington.

They must not let the summit be engulfed in haphazard lectures from the United States about “value” It is not in itself practiced at home or abroad. Instead, African leaders must embrace the microphone – and if necessary, stand firm on the continent’s economic interests.

Africa is in need

For decades, the United States has not prioritized Africa – Washington has adopted a model of “anchored states” in Africa, operating primarily through a handful of powerful, regional actors to leverage its influence. enjoy. It is able to do so, to a good extent, because its supremacy on the continent, as in other parts of the world, is largely unchallenged – especially since when the Cold War ended.

That’s no longer true: China is the continent’s largest trading partner, with growing influence.

United States and the European Union desire what Africa can offer: support for the war in Ukraine, cooperation to reduce climate change and access to rare earth minerals vital to the West’s rivalry with Beijing in everything from computers take into account sophisticated weapons.

This brings me to the strategic leverage that Africa enjoys today. The US-led West is keen to reduce Chinese and Russian military interventions in Africa. For example, in November, Deputy Director of Central Intelligence David Cohen met Teodoro Nguema, heir to the throne of the oil-rich and deeply autocratic Equatorial Guinea nation of the Atlantic.

The ultimate American interest in Equatorial Guinea is stop china from establishing a naval base on the vital Atlantic coast of Africa – and thus facing the US East Coast. Never mind democracy.

In other words, the US knows exactly what it wants to gain from Africa. Here’s the question, though: Does Africa know what they want in America?

Neutral on Ukraine

As it became clear that many African countries would take a neutral position on war but actively lobbied all sides for an immediate end to hostilities, said Antony Blinken, US secretary of state, start around Africa trying to surpass Russia diplomatically. In this respect, African leaders need to tell Biden that they will stick to their current course, balance relations between the West and Russia, and call on all sides to stop building weapons. danger and of course war.

Turkey and India can be used as an example. After all, the US and Russia are both weaponizing “erotic” scenes about food shortages in Africa to tarnish each other’s image.

On money

If there’s one area where Africa today may have a harder time negotiating with the US, it’s in commodities, rare earth minerals and broader economic partnerships.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, is home to the world’s largest known reserves of cobalt and is a major source of lithium – both of which the United States craves in its fierce quest. beat China in next-generation computing, decarbonisation, and electronic warfare.

The US Department of Defense opened negotiations with Malawi’s miners to avoid becoming too dependent on China, which by 2019 supplied 80% of America’s precious land minerals.

The EU, Washington’s closest ally, is in dire need of energy in the war in Ukraine. Mozambican began shipping liquefied natural gas to Europe in November. This partly eases pressure on the US to fill EU liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage tanks.

At a time when Russia is kill mercenaries, and Chinese money, to African leaders in exchange for influence and strategic resources, the United States and its allies know they cannot afford business as usual with the continent . Therefore, it is important for African leaders to speak – in the best voice possible – to negotiate favorable trade mechanisms and access to finance at reasonable interest rates.

There is already evidence that this can be done: Consider the case of Zambia, which counts China as its largest trading partner. When Lusaka looked on public debt restructuring, the US asked Zambia’s creditors such as China and France to accept their losses. As Stephen Chan, professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, speak in November, we can now see “competitive posture” from the US and China to demonstrate who is “more generous” towards Zambia.

The Biden administration has announced that it will use the Washington summit to pledge support for The African Union is included in the G20 — a sign that the United States recognizes the continent’s growing influence. But African leaders should push for more than just a chair at the global negotiating table.

They can learn from supposedly loyal US allies, like Saudi Arabia, pushing for tough bargains with Washington to protect its national interests, even if that means limiting oil production to keep crude prices high. Saudi Arabia not easy to bear threat from Washington. Neither should African countries.

Go big or go home

At the climate talks, COP27, in Egypt in November, there was a glimmer of optimism in the way Africa conducts its climate diplomacy. Presidents from Africa have taken to the podium to criticize the United States and other industrialized nations for creating the climate crisis and demanding tangible billions in climate compensation funds.

Biden’s summit in Washington is an opportunity to build on Africa’s standing as an influential geopolitical player. Our leaders need to look their American partners in the eye, secure the best possible deals for the continent and its individual countries, and not let the United States set the agenda. agenda with hypocritical preaching about freedom and democracy.

America is possibly the biggest power in the world. But this could be Africa’s moment.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial views of Al Jazeera.

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