U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is in Africa on what the White House says is a mission to strengthen diplomatic ties and investment between the continents. She is visiting Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia.
Her visit comes a few months after President Joe Biden hosted the U.S-Africa Summit in Washington D.C. Over 40 African leaders, the African Union as well as members of civil society attended the summit, where discussions on the economy, security, climate crisis, food security, COVID-19, democracy and human rights were held. It is the first of such meeting since 2014 when then-president Obama declared a “Year of Africa” and convened a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.
But many people see Harris’ visit and the December summit as a belated realization by the United States as to how much it had ignored Africa, despite the continent becoming increasingly important to the world economy. But also Africa’s strong economic ties to China, a country with tense diplomatic ties with the United States, may have prompted this sudden need to woo Africa.
The sudden attention Africa is getting from the world’s superpower could be as a result of the United States’ dismay at how the western narrative on Ukraine has not gotten a place in Africa. Thomas Hanson, Diplomat in Residence at the University of Minnesota, Duluth says: “Key African leaders, such as Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and Mackey Sall of Senegal, have blamed sanctions, rather than the Russian invasion of Ukraine, for global food and energy inflation.”
Another reason, according to Hanson, is Chinese and Russian diplomatic emphasis on the Global South, which they now term “the Global Majority.”
But the United States may face obstacles in its bid to establish as strong of economic ties with Africa as China has. China focuses mainly on economic cooperation with African countries, while the United States is keen on domestic political and social policies, security and human rights.
Harris’ visit to Africa comes on the heels of recent visits by First Lady Jill Biden, UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. President Biden is expected visit the continent later this year.
It is not exactly clear how African leaders see this newest Africa initiative, but it is important for them to understand that every administration comes with new policies and this latest one may or may not last under another administration.