By Boris Esono Nwenfor
With the new administration that has taken office in the US, experts are optimistic about a change of strategy on how to work with the Africa continent, something which was not done by the former administration.
In a Nkafu Policy Institute’s special conversation on “US-Africa Relations in the Biden Administration” held on Zoom this February 8, 2021, and moderated by Dr Denis Foretia, Executive Chairman – Nkafu Policy Institute, the experts sounded optimistic on the new path that is expected from the Biden administration.
During the Trump administration, the relation between Africa and the US was on a downward trajectory. The continent was not seen as a valuable partner like other administrations have done. America which used to be seen as a bastion for democracy was not anymore with Trump going as far as calling the continent the “s” word.
“The last four years have been a challenge; tough challenge on Africa-Americans, and a tough challenge on Africa immigrants. We have a lot of building to do but I am optimistic about the Biden administration. We are hoping to see a complete change and a proactive policy towards Africa,” Melvin Foote, President and CEO Constituency for Africa (CFA) said, reflecting on the challenging years of the former administration.
The general character towards Africa has been one of disdain. I am hoping that the new administration consolidates what the former had implemented. We are hoping that the Biden Administration supports the Prosper Africa and Build Act that was implemented,” Charles Kojo Vandyck, Head of the Capacity Development Unit, West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) said.
“We are looking for more investment from the Biden administration on the YALI Initiative and the Power Initiative.”
He went on to say that one of the main issues on the continent is the coronavirus pandemic and the fallouts on the economy. To him, the Biden administration’s decision to join COVAX was well received on the continent, ensuring the vaccines are distributed globally.
To Riva Levinson, President and CEO KRL International, there is hope from the new administration as a lot of positive news have been made. In the last three weeks, some 8 things have been done than the previous administration did in four years such as rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, re-joining the HR Commission, a well-received speech at the AU, re-joining the WTO and others.
According to her one of the most challenging issues that Africa needs is clearing its debts. “The continent is drowning in debt. The continent cannot clear its debts on its own and needs assistance on that level. The Health and vaccine situation has to be looked at,” Riva Levison said.
On the aspect of the US joining the Paris Climate agreement, Melvin Foote said he is happy as Africa has taken a hit in terms of climate change. Despite being optimistic, he says there is a need for actions to be done as a lot of talks has been made at the moment.
“The Diaspora has a lot of work to do, and the Africans need to do their part also. With the coronavirus pandemic Africa should not expect some initiatives for the next 6 months or so as the Biden administration will be looking at vaccinating its population,” Melvin Foote said.
“The YALI programme is the most significant initiative in the US. It is very essential in building the next generation of African leaders. I am expecting women to emerge, and YALI Presidents to come out of the continent. We are expecting a lot of investment from the Diaspora for the continent.”
Responding to a question on democracy Riva Levison says there is need for institutions on the African continent to be representative of the people and not what is happening at the moment.
“The US needs to empower people on the continent who are fighting for democracy, something the US has not done for the last four years,” Riva Levison said.
To Melvin Foote, “The world does not treat Africa right as all they want from the continent is their resources. The day of the dictator is gone. There is awakening at the moment and it is just a matter of time for the other countries to follow.”