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Blinken's Africa Tour Sought Partnerships

FILE: Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits an election transparency hackathon event at the Kinshasa Digital Academy in Kinshasa, DRC, on Aug. 10, 2022, prior to traveling to Rwanda later in the day.

ANALYSIS: The growing influence of bilateral relations between sub-Saharan Africa and China, Russia, and Turkey could be prompting the U.S to boost its commitments to the continent. But they warned that leaders must be strategic to optimize their pursuit for their economic interests.

United States Secretary of State Anthony Blinken's three-nation tour of Sub-Saharan Africa - South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda - was done soon after Africa tours by French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

At the top of Secretary Blinken's agenda was security and stability, democracy and respect for human rights, strengthening the rule of law as well as combating the climate crisis.

This was Blinken's second visit to the continent as Secretary of State. In November last year, he visited Nigeria, Kenya and Senegal in what was then an attempt to reset U.S-African relations after Donald Trump's presidency.

University of Johannesburg's Oluwaseun Tella told VOA the U.S is resolved to catch-up after years of neglecting the continent and the present scramble for sway by Beijing, the Kremlin, the European Union and Instabul.

''The U.S is increasingly realizing that one of the reasons Beijing and Moscow have made inroads is (their) non-interference in the internal affairs of African states. The U.S is now playing catch-up following years of Washington's neglect to the African continent'', he said.

Tella also commented that ''China overtook the U.S in 2009 as Africa's largest trading partner, Russia is increasingly assertive in the security realm and the European Union is exercising its soft power on the continent," adding "And of course, all of these (is due to) Washington's declining geopolitical influence on the continent.''

Brussels-based foreign policy observer Collins Nweke told VOA that because Africa ''holds great potentials for the future of the global economy, it has emerged (as) the beautiful bride after whom every groom runs (to).''

Expanding that, he stated ''The US re-engagement instrument is the planned Global Fragility Act which is projected to make a decade-long investment in promoting more peaceful, more inclusive, more resilient societies in places where conditions are ripe for conflict,'" adding that ''What we see playing out is great power contests."

Nweke went on to say "Essentially, the contestants in this game are using different tools to implicitly ask Africa to pick a side in great power contests that feel far removed from daily struggles of their people'', he said, referring to Russia's continuous invasion of Ukraine and the lack of condemnation by most African states.

But Nweke thinks that ''It looks like the US has loads of work to do convincing Africa that like the rest of the world leaders, it does not see Africa as an instrument to satisfy its own selfish interests.''

The analyst also said ''The United States, if you ask me, needs to make up its mind whether to consistently act in ways that debunk the neo-imperialist power label and not dictate to Africans or stick with a policy that truly project win-win for the US and Africa."

During his Africa tour, Blinken publicly stated that the United States is seeking partnerships with African nations, not to dictate to them.

On what Blinken accomplished on his tour, Tella said ''it is too early to measure that.'' But he added that ''Following Blinken's mediation in the Rwanda-Congo conflict, the presidents of these countries have agreed to engage in direct talks. It remains to be seen if such talks would lead to something concrete.''