While many political experts in Africa are looking with new hope at the government set up by US President Joe Biden, others believe that only the tone of US policy towards the continent in Africa will change, not in essence.
“I think there is a worldwide expectation that the Biden government will reverse the four-year nightmare … seeking a recovery in US relations across Africa, but I do not see any major change,” said Sebastian. Spio-Garbrah, head of Da Mina Adviseurs, a political risk consultation with offices in New York.
He refers to President Donald Trump’s contempt for Africa, the discriminatory visa restrictions against Sudan, Somalia and even Chad at one point. Trump has reportedly described some African countries as “poop” countries, and the names of others mispronounced, including Namibia and Tanzania.
“For example, the sanctions against Zimbabwe. Is Biden going to lift it? I do not think so,” Spio-Garbrah added.
Democracy versus trade
According to Spio-Garbrah, renewed efforts to maintain or promote trade ties are likely to find a back seat to issues such as democracy. But the possible establishment of Nigerian economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as head of the World Trade Organization will definitely put Africa’s concerns at the forefront, he says.
“I believe the Biden admin supports her, like Trump did not, ”He adds.
‘Although Africa will be part of the agenda, I would expect the focus to be primarily on democracy, not economics … and that Biden’s government will be much more muscular in response to sanctions, in public against those regimes in Africa where there are bad elections, ”says Spio-Garbrah.
Election of the Cabinet
Biden will nominate his cabinet on Tuesday, but it is already clear who he surrounds himself with regarding the Africa agenda. One name that has been repeatedly pushed – even as a potential vice president – is Susan Rice, who has held a number of posts from the Clinton administration, including as policy adviser, assistant foreign minister for Africa, former UN ambassador, and national security adviser under the Obama administration.
She is currently part of the Biden transition team and has had a professional relationship with him for a long time.
But she wears lots of luggage of previous crisis management on the African continent, from Libya to Rwanda.
She has been repeatedly accused of it set aside for African leaders are considered dictators, including Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame.
UN viewers recall holding back UN report indicated Kagame supports M23 rebels fighters in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as a way to protect him from criticism, or even sanctions.
She also previously worked as an advisor to Kagame.
While working as a US ambassador to the UN, the US State Department took a rare step, distances themselves from Rice’s claim that the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya in 2012, which killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, was a reaction to a film shown earlier in the week.
“If she is appointed foreign minister, I believe Africa will have some importance in the general orientation of the government,” Spio-Garbrah said. “Even though she is mentioned, the traditional needs and roles of the US government are to some extent Europe and Asia. I do not see a great focus on Africa,” he adds, weighing the geopolitical balance.
On the plus side, Biden has retired and includes many respected Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the former Assistant Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and former U.S. Ambassador to Liberia as head of the Biden-Harris transition team.