Wednesday , March 22 2023

What is the US-Africa Strategy? The Herald


The Herald

The end of 2018 was flooded with various local and international news cycles, which ultimately overshadowed a major policy statement – the US (Africa) strategy.

Two years later, without much clarity about the Trump administration's attitude towards Africa, it seems ironic that the African strategy was almost overlooked, given that it was also announced during the holiday season, and many institutions either included or were on holiday. Given the importance of the strategy, it is necessary to unload it and discuss its impact on the continent.

The actual strategy and how it differs from the previous administration strategy

There is not much that has changed from a political point of view. The United States continues to place emphasis on conditional support for Africa, such as "help with effect", "help with responsibility" and "relief with reform". The US also maintains its vision of reciprocity, as underlined by the desire to put an end to preferential programs such as the African Agenda for Growth (Agoa) and the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), called "modern and comprehensive bilateral trade agreements".

My interpretation of the inclusion of US 'modern and comprehensive bilateral trade agreements' includes a number of 'new generation' issues, such as trade in services, trade in environmental goods, aspects of the contract on public procurement and immediate (tariff) liberalization. almost all forms of trade. Although the Obama administration raised these issues through mega-regional and multilateral trade agreements, the Trump administration has adopted a more selective approach in choosing bilateral agreements with specific countries. We anticipate that Trump's administration position is being implemented across the continent with an African strategy. It will see the United States dealing with special African countries, not the whole continent, with the regional economic communities (African continents), or with the African continental free trade agreement (Af-CFTA).

The differences between the Obama and Trump administrations are nuanced, and this is not about the content of the policy, but more on the approach. The latter has adopted a much more aggressive approach, while the former have made more diplomatic ways to transfer US interests to the continent. An aggressive approach can be seen in the speech of President Trump National Security Adviser – Ambassador John R. Bolton, where he deplored the Chinese and Russian approach to Africa. For example, Ambassador Bolton noted that "Chinese and Russian resistance practices contribute to economic growth in Africa; threatening the financial independence of African countries; prevents US investment opportunities; intervenes in US military operations and poses a serious threat to US state security interests ”.

The new addition to the US Africa Strategy is the Prosper Africa initiative and aims to "support open markets for American companies, grow middle class in Africa, promote youth employment opportunities and improve the business environment". Prosper Africa is almost the only extension of Agoa in terms of its goals and ambitions to support sound and transparent management and to improve the 'ease of doing business' across the continent.

It is clear that the US-Africa strategy tends to reorientate the US and bring it to China and Russia. The US, with the exception of China and Russia, seems to have a "conditional support" aspect, and then the question is whether a more aggressive US approach will change the balance of power or even its impact on the African continent?

This is linked to the implementation of "modern and comprehensive bilateral trade agreements" that the US could seek with specific African countries. I believe that the US might possibly be the main markets, such as Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt (as well as some others), which are the main economic and socio-political centers of power in East, West, South and North Africa. .

The main issues arising from Trump's Africa strategy
Firstly, bilateral agreements with specific countries, rather than with RECs, could be at odds with the regional integration agenda. In other words, there is a risk in the US that it will be preferred to larger economies at a lower cost. Thus, work outside the REC can be considered to be a disincentive to the functioning of regional trade agreements.

The contradictory nature of this argument is that working with specific economic centers (i.e. national markets) will encourage the purchase of raw materials from neighboring countries, smaller countries, which could ideally lead to deeper regional integration. However, there is still little evidence that this could really happen. It might be worth checking out alternative trade integration efforts outside the existing trade agreements, given that it is possible to limit the power and influence (both political and economic) of RECs.

Secondly, we need to look for a modern and comprehensive trade agreement (assuming that it will be done with certain strong African economies), given that these African economies are really ready to liberalize domestic markets with the same standards as the US. .

Finally, and more importantly, it seems that the Africa Strategy, through the Prosper Africa program, reflects the shift of new emphasis from a trade-to-investment approach to identifying US companies on the African continent as key economic factors. integration.

Prosper Africa is at the heart of the US and Africa Strategy, not only because it is a unique signing initiative (unlike other legacy programs such as Power Africa, Trade Africa, inherited from previous administrations), but also because of US technology and technology. The spread of knowledge in Africa can have the greatest impact on politics, as well as shifting the balance of power from Russian and Chinese hegemony on the continent.

Wandile Sihlobo is an agricultural economist and research manager at Agbiza and Tinashe Kapuya is an agricultural technical consultant at the Seriti Institute. – Moneyweb.

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