President Biden’s US-Africa Policy
President Biden’s US-Africa Policy
How will President Biden approach Africa? I’ve curated this Roll to discuss some of the challenges the continent is currently facing, and how U.S. policy can help to address them. Click on any section to read an article I recommend with more info.
Africa a likely priority
President Biden has already signaled that US-Africa relations will be a higher priority for his administration – by nominating Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, to be U.S. ambassador to the U.N. She is also chairing the transition process at the State Department. President Trump’s former UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, was heavily involved in Africa, including by resolving a political crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. By placing Thomas-Greenfield in the role, President Biden is demonstrating the importance of Africa in his foreign policy.
Climate Change: The Biden Administration’s Opportunity in Africa
Biden has vowed to make climate change one of his administration’s top priorities. In this article for the Council on Foreign Relations, I outline how the President-elect could create a new agenda to deal with the effects of climate change in Africa while preventing it from worsening.
Ethiopia’s conflict rages on
The Trump administration did little to address African conflicts beyond routine calls for peace and aid. A recommitment to diplomacy and conflict resolution could make a key difference in several ongoing crises, including in Ethiopia, where an internal conflict between Abiy Ahmed’s government and the leaders of the Tigray region continues. While Abiy has declared victory, atrocities along ethnic lines are occurring across the country, and an insurgency against his regime is brewing in Tigray.
A regional crisis
The Ethiopian conflict is spreading instability throughout the region. Violence along the Sudanese-Ethiopian border led to Sudan taking military control of the area. Meanwhile, the involvement of Eritrean troops in the conflict has added to tensions. The stability of the entire Horn is at risk.
No end in sight for Cameroon’s civil war
A civil war continues in Cameroon, where the conflict between Anglophone separatists and Paul Biya’s federal government has entered a third year. Cameroon faces other crises of insecurity, including from the extremist group Boko Haram, but Biya has redirected foreign aid intended for counterterrorism towards his repression of the country’s Anglophone minority. The Trump administration treated the conflict as intractable, but the Biden administration may take a second look.
A chance for a new Sudan
After a drawn-out process, the Trump administration finally restored international aid to Sudan by removing its outdated designation of the state as a sponsor of terrorism. Sudan needs the help. The civilian government installed following last year’s revolution is still fighting for control with the remnants of dictator Omar al-Bashir’s powerful military and security services. With the end of the SST designation, the Biden administration will be able to formulate a new policy toward Sudan, one that can help the country transition to civilian-led democracy.
President Biden will oversee the global deployment of recently-approved vaccines against COVID-19. The coronavirus disease has not hit Africa as hard as other regions, owing largely to its young population. But as the Administration faces hard choices about where to send limited vaccine supplies and aid, it must not forget that Africans are also struggling against the pandemic, and lack the frameworks to mitigate its broader social and economic effects.
A second wave of infections
A second wave of COVID-19 infections has emerged across Africa, and in South Africa, with its older population and international connections, it is proving especially deadly. The rise of two new strains in Africa – both of which appear to be more transmissible than previous variants – underscores the importance of a robust vaccine campaign in Africa in spite of the logistical challenges and relatively low death rate.
A resurgence of terrorism across Africa
Meanwhile, the Pentagon is openly warning that U.S. and international counterterrorism efforts are not getting the job done in Africa. Of particular concern are the volatile Sahel region, and West Africa, where groups like Boko Haram are exploiting socioeconomic desperation and local grievances to recruit and expand their territorial holdings.
An African 9/11 plot foiled
This insecurity threatens the U.S., too. A Kenyan al-Shabaab operative was recently arrested for plotting a 9/11-style attack on American soil, in which he would fly a plane into a skyscraper. As the Biden administration assesses its Africa policy, the foiled plot should act as a reminder that African security, like Middle Eastern security, has international consequences. President Trump is currently withdrawing all U.S. troops from Somalia, where they have been fighting al-Shabaab. I am hopeful that the Biden administration will recommit to security assistance there.