United States Vice President Kamala Harris completed a three-nation African Tour, visiting Ghana, Zambia, and Tanzania.
“It was an honour being in Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia – strengthening the very important relationship and friendship between the people of the United States and those who live on the continent of Africa” Tweeted Kamala Harris.
What inspired the visit, including other recent visits by high-level US officials, remains a topic of conversation. But we must note that in recent years Chinese and Russian influence has grown in Africa, hence the need for America to try to strengthen and reassert its partnerships across the continent.
But what America gets wrong about foreign policy remains a key question following these much-publicized trips to the continent. Some examples of known issues are clearly at the root of a sudden change in approach and recalibration from the US administration.
Investments Bring Russia, and China Closer to Africa
For centuries the West enjoyed almost exclusive engagement with African nations. That is no longer the case. In recent times China and Russia have partnered with African countries just as French and US influence in the continent has decreased. Over the past decade, China has invested heavily throughout out the continent, with projects such as the Zim-City in Zimbabwe.
The West Africa-Sahel Region Peace Situation
Russia’s Wagner group is collaborating with different countries in the Sahel Region.
Among the issues Harris addressed was the West Africa Sahel region instability due to violent extremist groups operating there. My colleague Keshawn Young covered the topic Has America Lost the “New Scramble for Africa? I encourage you to check it out.
Harris pledged $100m in support of Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Cost, and Togo.
The issue of gay rights in Africa is still controversial as the populations in most African countries remain largely conservative.
Recently Uganda has a proposed bill that criminalizes practicing and promoting homosexuality. In Ghana, there is a proposed bill that if passed will criminalize being gay, bisexual, or transgender. VP Harris claimed to have raised the issue of LGBTQ rights in Ghana. President Nana Akufo-Addo responded that the bill was a proposal and not official.
The LGBTQ issue is a Ghanaian choice to make.
Human Rights Versus Democracy in Africa
Human rights are important, and so is foreign policy. Human rights are an important topic, especially now that many African countries are democratic, which means majority rule. If the majority were to outlaw LGBTQ rights, would this be considered a human rights violation or a democracy flaw?
For years, while the West partnered with African countries, they endorsed policies that seemed beneficial to the people. However, in recent times some African countries seem to prefer partners, such as Russia and China, who don’t interfere with their internal politics.
America now seems to be putting effort into its relationship with Africa, even pledging to support Agenda 2063. China appeals to African leaders as it does not interfere with African politics. America may question the motive of China and Russia. However, it’s still up to each of the 54 countries in Africa to choose a future and their partners.
Therefore, it would take a better approach to foreign policy to lessen African skepticism of American partnership.