By Prince Kurupati
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa had a telephone conversation with US President-Elect, Joe Biden earlier this week in which the two leaders discussed ways to strengthen US-Africa relations. The two leaders as according to the South African Government News Agency also discussed ways to overcome the novel COVID-19 pandemic which had wrecked havoc both in America and Africa.
The Office of the South African President was the first to relay the news that the country’s leader had just had a telephone conversation with the US President-Elect. On the official site, the Office of the South African President said that the President “is hopeful of a strong partnership between the United States and the African continent in promoting peace and stability in international relations and advancing multilateralism.”
The telephone conversation does not come as a surprise considering that the US President-Elect and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris have identified Africa as a major player in international affairs and in the advancement of multilateralism.
Joe Biden does have a long history with South Africa as he once visited the country during the Apartheid era and denounced the inhuman discriminatory ways that the white ruling minority was practicing against the black majority. Ever since, South Africa has always had a soft spot for Biden as they knew him as a man who demonstrated great commitment in fighting for human rights and dignity for all South Africans.
The South African President Cyril Ramaphosa who is also the Chairperson of the African Union stated that “he looked forward to a strong partnership at a bilateral level and between the United States and the continent of Africa.”
The report by the South African Government News Agency said that Biden and Ramaphosa also discussed ways of overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the report did not outline in explicit terms how the two leaders aim at overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have however expressed optimism that collaborations between the two will bear fruit as Biden from the onset of the pandemic has always urged the US administration to craft robust measures of tackling and eradicating the pandemic in the shortest possible period of time. Biden on numerous occasions has called out the incumbent Donald Trump for taking a lackadaisical approach to tackling the pandemic largely by his stance to refuse wearing masks in public and urging the public to consume unapproved COVID-19 vaccines.
Many African leaders have welcomed Joe Biden’s electoral victory, expressing hope that his win will boost trade and other relations between the continent and the US. However, many experts say Biden faces a mammoth task of strengthening US-Africa relations more so on the economic front considering China’s influence in Africa since the turn of the millennium. The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) became China’s most prominent development initiative after 2000, and in 2009 China not only surpassed the US as Africa’s largest trading partner, but also became the most promising source of funds for African development infrastructure.
When Trump entered into office, he adopted the concept of ‘containment’. Trumps’ Africa strategy not only focused on advancing US economic interest in Africa, but also sought to economically contain China’s impact on the continent. The key focus of the strategy was to contain China’s commercial, security and political influence in Africa, which has been solidified through deepening economic engagement, closer security cooperation and high-profile diplomacy epitomized by the FOCAC. It’s still unclear at the present moment if Joe Biden will follow a similar ‘containment’ path or come up with something new. Regardless of the decision he takes, whats clear is that the infleuce of China in Africa will pose many challenges to his administration.
Biden defeated incumbent Donald Trump in the recent US elections becoming the first former vice president to win the Oval office since George H.W. Bush who won in 1988 after eight years under Ronald Regan.