The Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Idayat Hassan, on Friday, February 12, warned the Joe Biden and Kamala Harris administration to desist from forcing African countries to choose between the United States of America, China, or Russia.
Hassan said the Biden Administration must focus on strengthening its relationship with African countries and bring to the table, incentives that can be leveraged by the nations across the continent. She also called on Africa and its leaders to take full responsibility for ameliorating the conflict ravaging the continent.
Hassan made the call while speaking at the virtual event “From Africa to the US: Recommendations for the Biden’s Administration” organized by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in collaboration with CDD, Institute of Global Dialogue, and the African Centre for the Study of the United States.
The CDD Director listed three key priorities – liberal democracy, security, and accountability – that must be encouraged with the view to strengthen the relationship between Biden’s administration and Africa.
Speaking on liberal democracy, Hassan noted that Africa has eight serving Heads of State who have spent two decades in power in a continent where the average age is just about 19 years old.
“90% of Africa countries now practice democracy but on the same continent, there are 8 leaders who have stayed in power for more than two decades. But overall, Africa has made progress with more elections and peaceful transitions” Hassan said.
She said that to promote security and democracy in Africa, there must be active engagement with the civil societies across the continent, sanctions imposed against undemocratic regimes and standardized training of military personnel.
For accountability, CDD Director said it is a well-known fact that Africa is rife with corruption. She however said that the Magnitsky Act is critical in the plan to address human rights violations and corruption across the continent.
“When we allow impunity to grow, we also let human right violations increase,” Hassan said.
Also, speaking, Judd Devermont, Program Director, CSIS highlighted some of the moves by Biden’s administration which already affect Africa.
Devermont cited the reverse of the travel ban imposed by Donald Trump’s administration, the US rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, and Biden’s move to speak directly with the AU at the onset of the Biden/Harris term.
Giving his keynote address, the president of Malawi, Lazarus Chakwera, said the Biden administration has already demonstrated a firm cognizance of the urgency of the moment.
Evaluating the current approach used by the US to address the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Chakwera global problems take a global effort.
“It serves no purpose for any U.S. administration to dwell on where a global crisis like Covid-19 starts from or where it ends because that kind of preoccupation only delays & derails our coming together to solve a problem that threatens all of us,” Chakwera said.
He noted that the pandemic presents an opportunity for the US and Africa to come together to address systemic inequalities caused by the disease outbreak.
According to the Malawian President, “Neither America nor Africa can afford to treat the problems of the other as to having no bearing on the interest, or progress, of the other.”
He added that it is refreshing to see that President Biden has already begun the work of rebuilding America’s alliances with Africa particularly his commitment to directly engage with leaders from the continent.
“The Biden administration is in a unique position to leverage its influence at multilateral forums and institutions to ensure that the sovereignty of African states is respected & defended,” Chakwera said.
On security, he applauds Biden’s administration for rejoining the Paris agreement, renewing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, his support for World Health Organisation and the Centre for Disease Control.
He also called for the strengthening of human rights institutions and economically support countries that uphold rule of law and respect democratic values.
Philani Mthembu, the Executive Director of the Institute of Global Dialogue said the Biden administration should think about the expiration of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) in 2025.
He said a free trade agreement between Africa and the US could be beneficial in terms of development cooperation.
While urging the US to consolidate its programs across the continent and move away from fragment projects, Mthembu said: “It is to the advantage of the United States for an integrated Africa to emerge.”
For Bob Wekeska, the coordinator for the African Centre for the Study of the United States at the Wits University, the US should focus on direct diplomacy with the continent rather than engaging in competitive politics like countering China, others.
Wekeska said Africans are yearning for integration and the African Union should be regarded as a starting point for engaging with the continent.
“We hope that Biden and Kamala Harris administration will listen to Africa and act based on listening,” Wekeska said.