Biden’s Africa Strategy Is Weak in the Strategy Department

Biden's Africa Strategy Is Weak in the Strategy Department

OOPS! – Biden’s Africa “Strategy” Left Something Out…

( – Over the last several decades, the United States’ influence in Africa has been essentially non-existent. The main objective was to counter terrorism and keep it far from America’s shores. Recently, Russia and China have made concerted efforts to deepen and expand partnerships on the continent. On Monday, August 8, the Biden administration announced it intended to change the government’s strategy in the region.

While the White House pursues new goals, it comes with numerous obstacles. Among the challenges for the US is working on expanding its influence without giving the appearance it doesn’t care about geopolitical issues. So, what’s in the new game plan? Let’s explore.

Administration Pivots From Old Routine

Over the last 20 years, military needs drove relationships between the United States and various African anti-democratic regimes. The focus was primarily on counterterrorism efforts. In a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 12, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) said that after spending billions of dollars improving several countries’ militaries, the US has little to show in terms of stopping terrorist activities in Africa. At the same time, he added diplomatic and economic development goals were severely undercut or ignored.

That’s something Biden hopes to change. A fact sheet released by the White House says there are three pillars Washington must focus on over the next five years:

  1. Advocating for democracy
  2. Growing economic development
  3. Tackling climate change

The administration believes these policy objectives will affect the course of relations between Africa and America. Yet, many aren’t so sure.

Analysts Suggest Policies Are Short-Sighted

The three-pronged strategy is primarily designed to blunt the growing influence of Russia and China on the continent, but analysts suggest it will fall short in several years. They say it doesn’t explain how the policy will expand democracy and balance counterterrorism efforts. It also doesn’t detail how it will counter Russia and compete with China at the same time. Nor does it give African leaders confidence that it’s better to work with the US than to engage with its foes.

Political science professor and author Alex Thurston wrote in Responsible Statecraft, the online magazine of the Quincy Institute after the government rolled out the plan and Blinken visited leaders, officials didn’t get the response they hoped. While the secretary of state spoke about international law and Ukraine, the president of Uganda stated it doesn’t help the third world. He emphasized that confusing Africa’s issues with Europe was a mistake and that America should leave them out of conflicts that don’t involve them.

Additionally, many African countries were skeptical and emphasized the US might encourage existing democracies, but they would never undercut the authoritarians they rely on. Analysts said the many tensions between these countries are complex, delicate, and political, and the White House didn’t consider them. Buried in the details is that for many countries, the competition between America and its two greatest nemeses is portrayed as a values conflict instead of one of interest.

So, it appears the administration’s African strategy is really more of the same, with no concrete steps in sight.

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