In his first allocution to African leaders at the virtual African Union Summit in February, recently elected United States President, Joe Biden, reiterated his administration’s commitment to rebuilding partnerships with Africa and re-engaging with international institutions such as the African Union.
Biden set out his foreign policy priorities, pointing towards multilateralism and a healthier US-Africa relationship. Within days of his inauguration, the US re-joined both the World Health Organisation and the Paris Agreement, whilst supporting Covax, the global initiative to ensure equitable access to coronavirus vaccines for lower-income countries. The distinct change of tone from the previous administration was crystal clear.
In a world profoundly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, multilateralism matters now more than ever. The pandemic has taught us that the only way to solve global issues is by showing a unified front in the face of adversity to bring about global solutions. I believe that enhanced co-operation between nations is the only way forward if we are to tackle global issues such as climate change, pandemics and overall socio-economic development.
Less aid, more trade
With the new US administration putting a strong emphasis on renewed partnerships with the African continent, the “less aid, more trade” adage will be a key motivator in ensuring bilateral trade and commercial relations. All eyes will be on the new African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and its successful implementation. Taking full advantage of the market opportunity the agreement has to offer among 1.3-billion-people will be hugely beneficial for both the US and African nations.
On one hand, successful implementation of the AfCTFA will participate in the continent’s sustainable development and prosperity, while also propelling Africa on the global stage as a viable trade partner. On the other hand, the AfCFTA presents an opportunity for a single point of entry from the US into Africa. The agreement will shape harmonised policy and regulatory framework, reducing costs of transaction, and increasing commercial transaction.
Furthermore, with the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) set to expire in 2025, the need for the US and the African Union (AU) to maintain trade and investment ties beyond that date is essential to deepen the cooperation between the two. The AfCTFA offers an opportunity for the US and the AU to work together towards their common goal of increasing trade and investment, both inside and outside the continent. The new US administration’s change of tone indicates an interest for the US to regain its influence in Africa, and strengthening trade ties will plan a key role in achieving this.
Global issues require global solutions
The climate change crisis was a priority of Biden’s agenda, and he informed the United Nations of the US’s intent to re-join the Paris Agreement as a re-commitment to combat climate change earlier this year. On 19 February, the country officially returned to the landmark international agreement. The US re-entering the accord constitutes a new chapter in the global fight to save the planet and create a sustainable future for all. This new chapter of climate leadership sends a strong signal and a unifying call for international leaders to take bolder actions on climate protection.
Africa continues to be most vulnerable to the impact of climate change, despite being the continent least responsible for it. Madagascar, Kenya and Rwanda were on the list of the 10 countries most affected by climate change, according to The Global Climate Risk Index 2020. Climate crisis has been recognised as an utmost priority as it presents a serious threat to the continent achieving the UN’s sustainable development goals. Conscious of the threat, 49 countries in Africa have signed and ratified the Paris Agreement, with a common understanding that global challenges must be faced together.
The US re-joining the fold in the battle against climate change represents a strong ally for all developing regions. In fact, developed countries are required to provide financial resources to developing countries to mitigate the impact of the climate crisis, as stated in Article 9 of the Paris Agreement.
Achieving the agreement’s objectives means effectively reducing greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activities such as burning fossil fuels — more alternative energy solutions for electricity production are required.
Multilateralism, combating climate change, and fighting the Covid-19 pandemic are at the forefront of the new American administration’s agenda. Both the African continent and the US share ideals of prosperity and a sustainable future for all, but achieving these ideals will only be possible through robust co-operation and meticulous coordination from all parties involved.