Home News Politics Joe Biden’s Presidency and the US-Africa Relations
Politics - April 8, 2021

Joe Biden’s Presidency and the US-Africa Relations

One of the first things President Joe Biden did in January after he was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States of America was to overturn many of his predecessor’s controversial policies. Among them was the travel ban, which had affected a number of African countries like Nigeria, Eritrea, Tanzania and Sudan. The Trump Administration had argued that the travel ban was needed to forestall potential terrorist attacks on American soil. Despite this argument, the policy was met with widespread criticism. Senator Kamala Harris, who later became VP to President Biden, was one of those who strongly condemned the policy.

“Trump’s travel bans have never been rooted in national security — they’re about discriminating against people of color. They are, without a doubt, rooted in anti-immigrant, white supremacist ideologies,” Vice President Harris said. She wasn’t wrong. 

Biden Has Set the Tone for what US-Africa Relationship Would Look like under his Administration

There is no gainsaying the fact the Trump Administration had a very strained relationship with many countries around the world, including those in Africa. Not only were his policies towards the African continent abhorrent and obviously underpinned by his racist tendencies, he often made very disparaging comments about African countries. I mean, who can forget when he matter-of-factly called African countries “shithole” back in 2018?

Luckily for African countries, those days of unfavourable policies and embarrassing comments are over. By overturning Trump’s travel ban, President Biden has made it clear that he wants to have a mutually-beneficial and respectful relationship with Africa. In response to this new foreign policy disposition towards the continent, Africans are delighted and looking forward to a very fruitful relationship. A recent piece by Voice of America made this known with the headline: Nigerians Laud Biden Reversal of Trump’s Travel Ban on Muslim, African Countries.

By the way, overturning Trump’s controversial policies is not the only step that has so far been taken by President Biden towards remedying his predecessor’s diplomatic disasters. Another major step taken by him was to appoint a significant number of Black Americans of African descent into his Cabinet; including Adewale Adeyemo, Osaremen Okolo, and Funmi Olorunnipa Badejo to mention just a few.

Joe Biden's Presidency and the US-Africa Relations

Analysts Envisaged America’s Foreign Policy Shift under Biden

Long before Joe Biden’s inauguration, some political pundits and International Relations experts envisaged that he would try and build closer ties with other countries in a bid to salvage America’s damaged international reputation. In a November 2020 editorial, The Atlantic Council wrote about some of the ways the President could try and mend the US-Africa relation. These, according to the authors, include forging more economic ties with African countries and collaborating on security issues. 

Writing for the Brookings Institute, Witney Schneidman (a Non-Resident Fellow at Africa Growth Initiative), posited that the Trump Administration would also be focusing on democratic collaborations with African countries. According to him, “President Joe Biden has committed to restoring American leadership globally. With the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, this task became immensely more challenging. For Africa, nevertheless, this will translate into an American policy that strives to respect the people and governments on the continent.

“The Biden commitment to democracy can deepen American partnerships with African governments. We can learn from the African experience while sharing the causes of the recent assault on the U.S. Capitol and what it means for the future of democracy in the United States.”

 More on what US-Africa Relationship is Looking like under Biden 

In a March 24, 2021 piece by Foreign Policy magazine which was aptly titled The United States Returns to Africa, author Lynsey Chutel outlined President Biden’s hands-on approach to Africa after four horrible years of insults and indifference under Trump.

“From expletive-laden rants at the start of his presidency to allowing corruption to run rampant as one of his last foreign-policy acts, former U.S. President Donald Trump’s relationship with the African continent was characterized by detachment… While he hosted leaders considered important to his administration’s security ambitions, Trump himself never set foot on the continent. A new administration with a new foreign-policy strategy under President Joe Biden is already showing a marked shift toward African priorities,” Chutel wrote. 

President Joe Biden has a different approach. Besides the demonstrated commitment in the areas of immigration, cybersecurity and eradicating the COVID-19 pandemic, the Biden Administration is also paying closer attention to more of the issues that are peculiar to the continent. According to Chutel, the American Government is taking active steps towards ending the uprising in Ethiopia. Earlier, the US State Department raised concerns over reported human rights violations and massacres in the East African country. And then later in March this year, the President sent an envoy to “convey President Biden’s grave concerns about the humanitarian crisis and human rights abuses in the Tigray region and the risk of broader instability in the Horn of Africa.”

Similarly, the Biden Administration is actively involved in efforts aimed at quailing the conflicts in Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Besides military assistance, a lot of efforts have also been targeted at strengthening America’s economic relationship with Africa in a bid to counter China’s growing dominance in the region. As Chutel rightly pointed out, “U.S. foreign policy in Africa is about much more than military assistance. It encompasses an economic relationship that has been largely imbalanced, but also a raft of humanitarian policies that have become essential to the continent’s poor.”

Joe Biden's Presidency and the US-Africa Relations

A Cordial Relationship Characterised by Mutual Respect

Agreed, Africa has not always had the greatest relationship with the United States of America. However, recent diplomatic interactions between the two have always been characterized by mutual respect until President Trump came alone with his extremely realist foreign policy stance. Now that he is gone, Africa and the United States can go back to benefiting from each other. Again, it is important to reiterate that Biden’s policy towards Africa is definitely not the best thing that has happened to the continent since the beginning of time. Yet, it is definitely better than the standard we were used to in the past four years.


Leave a Reply

Check Also

10 Simple Tips for Writing a Great Business Plan

Whether you’re launching a startup, seeking investors, or steering an existing busin…