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US moves to win over Africa as China takes lead on trade

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PRESIDENT Joe Biden will host the second United States-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington DC next week to reinforce the US-Africa commitment to democracy, mitigate the impact of COVID-19, respond to the climate crisis and amplify Diaspora ties. 

Some 50 African leaders are expected to attend the two-day conference, which starts on December 13.

Senior policymakers say talks will focus on economic engagement, human rights, food security and climate, with an emphasis on partnerships that demonstrate an intention to go beyond strategic geo-political interest.

The White House will also seek to offer reassurance to African governments concerned by a perceived decline in relations with the US.

A former under-secretary at the US Department of Commerce, Gilbert Kaplan, said the key objective of this conference “should really be to enhance trust between African leaders and the United States”.

“Africa is faced with some of the biggest governance challenges on the globe,” President of the Cameroon People’s Party and the first woman in the nation’s history to run as a presidential candidate in 2011 Kah Walla said.

“We need government that is functional, competent and innovative, and what we are getting instead is the US and a global international system that is supporting autocratic and dysfunctional governments. We can’t continue in this way,” she added.

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Africa’s 54 nation states span six time zones and the continent’s population of 1.4 billion is on course to make up a quarter of the global population by 2050.

It boasts the youngest demographic in the world, a potentially huge labour resource for private sector investors seeking to expand in manufacturing and processing

But despite the continent’s tremendous economic potential, the US has lost substantial ground to traditional and emerging partners, especially China which surpassed the US as Africa’s largest trade partner in 2009, with total bilateral trade reaching more than $254 billion in 2021, a 35 per cent rise from 2020.

A member of the World Economic Forum’s Regional Action Group for Africa, Landry Signé, told a Senate sub-committee on Africa last year that while recent trends indicate that the US engagement with the region has cooled down, “it has not and should not cede its relationship with the region to other powers”.

The first United States-Africa Leaders Summit was held by President Barack Obama in 2014.

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