The United States is set to embark on a new platform with respect to its relationship with Africa. A US-Africa Summit is in the making. It is to be held in Washington from December 13th to the 15th, 2022 and it is to be hosted by President Joe Biden. The United States obviously wants to reset its relations with the continent and more specifically Sub-Saharan Africa, home of the world’s largest agricultural land, largest mineral reserves and plenty of water, animals and plant life.
The United States intends to renew its commitment to Africa as it claims, but did they really have a commitment to the continent, except one of exploitation of its mineral resources, long opposition to liberation of its southern reaches from the apartheid regime and organizing of coups after coups in the continent? Perhaps, this time they are right, for they know they have lost the continent to other powers of the world, and mostly China, which is now even encroaching on one of the most secure playgrounds of the United States in the world, the Arabian Peninsula, which has dared to host the Chinese Leader, President Xi Jinping, who is on a three day tour in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and hosted by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman of the Kingdom.
President Joe Biden has often claimed that in his presidency he would correct the past mistakes committed by his country in Africa, including but not limited to President Trumps insults of the continent and complete detachment from the continent for many decades, except when it came to wars against terror and changing of leaders in the continent. The Biden Administration through its foreign Ministry diplomats emphasized early on that the State Department’s focus on climate crisis could benefit the continent. They did not pronounce the how part of these thoughts. Perhaps the current Summit under processing would clarify the issues further.
The United States of America, no doubt is one of the most powerful countries of the world, if not the most powerful, and there are many ways and many things it can do to change the lot of the continent and more specifically its Sub-Saharan region. The first is perhaps the easiest and the most difficult at the same time and that is if they could just have their hands off the continent, both on the table and under the table. Africa is rich and poor at the same time, no doubt! It is rich for it has oil and gas. Five of the world’s top producing countries are in the continent and more are expected to join the club in the years to come. Africa has gold, diamonds, platinum, tantalum, cobalt, manganese, bauxite, nickel, uranium, chrome. It has titanium, lithium, graphite, Iron ore, zinc, copper and phosphates, and many others. Indeed, it is said to have 30 % of the earth’s remaining mineral reserves, 12 % of its oil, and 8 % of its gas.
But Africa has also fish and timber. It has lands and rivers, some of the mightiest in the world such as the Congo, the Nile, the Niger and the Zambezi. In the twenty-seventh Conference of the Parties (COP27) on climate change and held in Egypt from November 6 – 18, it was noted that Africa’s minerals would be necessary in the transition from fossil-based fuels to renewable energy. Many of the minerals needed for renewable energy including copper, cobalt, tantalum, lithium and others are found in Africa in plenty.
Africa has been used by both the West and the East for their own interests. It is perhaps high time that win-win contracts were made as the main building block for a new relationship with the continent. The United States, as a major power, has the ability to embark on such route for the benefit of both the African continent and the United states. This should not be in the form of long-term loans as the Chinese do in dealing with Africa, or remortgaging the continent or the old-style corrupting and killing of the leaders if they do not toe the line, as was effectively the unannounced policies of Western countries prior to the advent of the Chinese.
The coming USA-Africa Leaders Summit should put forth a new platform for a new relationship for mutual respect and mutual exploitation of the resources of the continent. This should be in the form of investments in the exploitation of the resources and minerals and not as debts burdening the continent. Basically, investors should take risks on the continent to make money and profits out of their investments, instead of loaning funds to the countries of the continent, which they would not be able to repay, down the road, when the minerals are depleted.
The continent is resource-rich and not as poor as they make it to be. Perhaps, it is also time for African leaders to emphasize and impress on their United States counterpart that the game has changed, and new rules are at play. Africa will have to go where its interests lie. Perhaps there would be a collusion between the West and the East and if this really becomes the case, Africa should stop producing for the foreigners and concentrate on growing food for its sons and daughters. Africa does not need to produce minerals that would lead to the demise of the continent and its children. There is always plenty of rain and plenty of land to cultivate. Africa should share among itself the food the continent produces.
It is also time that Africa in its continental and regional organizations, instituted resource protection policies to protect mineral exports out of the continent, allowing only exports that were truly mined through investments and not through loans and other nefarious activities. The continent should also institute new laws protecting investors that are in line with international rules, regulations, and standards to encourage investors seek opportunities in the continent. Investors should not face corrupt and opportunistic officials, who are intent on personal gains as opposed to the country and continent. Africa should chase any corrupt leader though all the international jurisdictions of the world. This would perhaps lessen the appetite of the continent’s many corrupt leaders.
Bilateral agreements by individual countries in the continent with foreign countries should be something of the past. The continent should negotiate in terms of the continent or regional blocks within the continent with foreign parties including the United States of America. There should be negotiations with ECOWAS or SADC or the EAC or the Horn of Africa States (HAS), and others. It is the only way to avoid leaders being corrupted by countries who have more clout economically and financially, and who can entice poor African leaders through frighteningly simple human behavior.
Africa needs unwavering support of the continent if it has to provide its minerals to any party.