The Biden administration is dispatching two of its top officials to Africa in the coming weeks in a bid to revive U.S. engagement on the continent and compete with its geopolitical rivals, Russia, and China, for influence.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel next month to South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, the Department of State announced on Friday.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, is heading to Ghana and Uganda next week, following a trip by U.S. Agency for International Development chief Samantha Power to Somalia and Kenya last week.
Against the backdrop of it all is geopolitical competition, punctuated by how Washington and Moscow are vying for support from African countries over the war in Ukraine. African countries are reeling from the economic shockwaves of the war, including food supply crunches after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine derailed important exports of food and other agricultural staples from both countries.
The diplomacy came after Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov undertook his own extensive tour of Africa, where he has sought to cast spiralling global food prices as a consequence of Western sanctions which is an idea rejected by Washington, which points to Moscow’s blockade of Ukrainian ports.
Blinken will send a message that “African countries are geostrategic players and critical partners on the most pressing issues of our day, from promoting an open and stable international system, to tackling the effects of climate change, food insecurity and global pandemics to shaping our technological and economic futures,” a Department of State statement said.
Blinken will visit Johannesburg and Pretoria in South Africa, a leader in the developing world, has emerged as a key diplomatic battleground as it has remained studiously neutral on the Ukraine war, refusing to join Western calls to condemn Moscow.
Blinken will then travel to Kinshasa where he will meet with senior DRC government officials and members of civil society to discuss mutual interest in ensuring free, inclusive, and fair elections in 2023, promoting respect for human rights and protecting fundamental freedoms.
The final stop will be Kigali where the Secretary will focus on the role the government of Rwanda can play in reducing tensions and ongoing violence in eastern DRC.
The US Agency for International Development has pledged more than $1 billion in emergency assistance to challenge the influence of other nations such China and Russia.