Biden Administration Announces $55 Billion Gift Package For Africa

The White House on Monday announced a new $55 billion package in economic aid, health care, and security support for Africa…

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President Joe Biden hosted a meeting for African leaders that began on Tuesday, during which the White House promised more details of the massive benefits package would be divulged. “Working closely with Congress, the U.S. will commit $55 billion to Africa over the course of the next three years across a wide range of sectors to tackle the core challenges of our time,” White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Monday.

Sullivan said the funds would support the African Union’s Agenda 2063 plan for economic development, in a rather transparent attempt to dispel any notion that the U.S. seeks to control the destiny of African nations. “That is not an American document. It is not an American Vision. It is the African Union’s document,” Sullivan insisted.

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The White House was equally transparent in its desire to avoid being seen as buying influence in Africa to counter the political investments China and Russia have been making. “It’s not going to be attempting to compare and contrast. This is going to be about what we can offer. It’s going to be a positive proposition about the United States, its partnership with Africa,” Sullivan bluntly insisted.

The White House said its further plans for bolstering African development include pushing for an African country to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and inviting the African Union to join the Group of 20 (G20) association of top world economies. South Africa is currently the only African nation in the G20.

Agenda 2063 is a plan formulated by the African Union (AU) in 2013, designed to be implemented in five “ten-year plans.” The goal is to transform Africa into “the global powerhouse of the future” by promoting “inclusive social and economic development, continental and regional integration, democratic governance and peace and security.”

The second ten-year plan is scheduled to begin next year. The AU carefully controls information about how the plan is coming along, holding periodic training sessions to instruct African journalists on how they should cover Agenda 2063 topics with relentless optimism. 

In February, the AU issued a report that conceded only 51 percent of anticipated progress was made during the first ten-year plan, a disappointing outcome the report blamed in part on the coronavirus pandemic, rising fuel prices, and later disruptions from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“We have also noted the need to strengthen human and institutional capacity in data and knowledge management. The low scores in some priority areas of Agenda 2063 can be explained, in part, by missing or insufficient data,” added Dr. Ibrahim Asane Mayaki, CEO of the African Union’s development agency NEPAD.

On Tuesday, at a meeting with the leaders of Djibouti, Niger, and Somalia, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin praised the vision and leadership of Africa’s current generation of executives and stressed the importance of the continent as a rising global power. Blinken frequently praised the “close partnership” between African Union members and the United States.

“We’re all here today because we recognize that African leadership remains key to confronting our era’s defining challenges of peace, security, and governance, so we deeply appreciate your leadership and your friendship and look forward to continuing to build upon our important partnership,” Austin said.

Columnist Rodney Sieh of Front Page Africa (FPA) pointed out on Tuesday that for all of the White House hype about an “Africa week,” timed to coincide with the eighth anniversary of former President Barack Obama’s U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit, no one-on-one meetings are scheduled between the visiting African heads of state and President Biden.

“The absence of a one-on-one with leaders from the continent will disappoint a few including Liberian President George Weah, whose government has been struggling to make inroads in the Biden administration with limited success,” Sieh predicted. 

Liberia is embroiled in a corruption scandal that saw three of its senior officials sanctioned by the U.S. government in August. Further sanctions against Liberia were anticipated to coincide with the U.N.’s World Anti-Corruption Day event last week, but the Biden Administration evidently decided to at least delay them, possibly as an incentive for Liberia to hold free elections and produce a cleaner administration next fall.

Sieh noted that optimism for sweeping reform and development plans like Agenda 2063 keeps running afoul of African corruption scandals and human rights abuses, which can make it difficult for Western idealists to compete for influence against Chinese and Russian promises of support without any human rights strings attached. 

Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized the Biden Administration last month for relaxing its human rights standards to make overtures to African leaders accused of oppression and atrocities, notably including authoritarian Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, South Sudan’s brutal President Salva Kiir, and the profoundly disappointing Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia, who went from winning a Nobel Peace Prize to overseeing an incredibly vicious civil war.

“Hosting these leaders at the White House will further legitimize these regimes, sending a clear message that the U.S. government values security considerations over human rights,” HRW said, further accusing the Biden Administration of overlooking abuses and destabilizing behavior by Uganda to send its despotic government millions of dollars in security assistance, and not doing enough to protect political freedom in Rwanda or Mali.

These are the conundrums of the Western world’s struggle to keep Africa from more fully entering the amoral, authoritarian orbit of China and Russia: pushing hard for human rights could bring some desirable clarity to African leaders and inspire them to do better, but it could also offend them and push them closer to Beijing, whose Belt and Road infrastructure billions come with absolutely no hectoring about human rights. Zimbabwe, a member of the AU, this week accused the United States of attempting to subdue and control it by sanctioning its leaders for human rights abuses and corruption, including the son of increasingly dictatorial ruler Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Ambitious plans like Agenda 2063 rely on heavy international support to achieve much-needed reforms, but in the current state of African politics, there is not much reason to believe those funds will be spent responsibly. Africa needs an energy and industrial revolution, but Western environmentalists would deny its industries the reliable and affordable power they need – whereas China will happily provide it. ✪

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