U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken traveled to Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, and Angola on January 21–26 with the goal of enhancing ties between the continent and the United States. The purpose of Blinken’s visit was also to further strengthen the connection between the United States and Africa following the mid-December 2022 Leaders Summit in Washington. The visit demonstrated the cooperative efforts in important domains including food, health, and climate security. This effort is seen in the prism of US-China competition in Africa. Russian factor is also must to keep in mind while calculating the US’s cooperative efforts in Africa.

At the very least, the United States has been working hard to improve ties with Africa. Additionally, African leaders have recognized that one of their major competitive advantages currently exists is the close-knit cultural links that enable Africans living abroad to succeed professionally in a variety of fields in the United States. Without a doubt, at the mid-December Africa Leaders conference in Washington, President Joe Biden referred to US-Africa ties as “US ‘all in’ for Africa.”

China’s Belt and Road vs. U.S. Investments

The goal of Antony Blinken’s working visit to the Republic of Angola, the last stop on his four-country tour of Africa, was to ensure and revitalize the $1 billion rail project for Angola’s Lobito Corridor, which would eventually connect Angola with mineral-rich regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of Zambia. Angola lags behind major countries like China and Russia in the competition for influence. 

The largest U.S. rail project in Africa under the Biden-Harris administration is this one. Blinken is expected to talk on security concerns, such as the threat posed by terrorism in the Sahel, as well as economic matters. He is also anticipated to talk about the military takeover that occurred in Niger in August, which deposed the legitimate government of one of America’s closest allies in the area. Days after the military dictatorship in Niger decided to fortify its relations with Russia, which has a commanding presence in the area, Blinken arrived in West Africa. “Shared priorities of strengthening democracy and rule of law, expanding trade and economic cooperation, and improving local and regional security” is a statement that the State Department has made several times. 

Diplomatic Maneuvering in Multilateral Forums

South Africa, one of the US’s most significant regional allies in the fields of health, education, the environment, and the digital economy, will be Blinken’s first destination. Over 600 American companies, many of which have their headquarters there, are based in South Africa, which is the country that the US trades with the most in Africa. South Africa is the top recipient of U.S. foreign direct investment (FDI) on the continent and provides 25% of the continent’s total revenue. South Africa serves as a gateway to other African markets, with around half of all African enterprises valued at $1 billion or more being based there. South Africa is extremely significant geopolitically, even aside from these economic ramifications. As geopolitical complexity takes shape, the US is struggling to overcome enough significant obstacles to start making a large-scale infrastructure investment in Africa. 

Recently, President Joe Biden welcomed Angolan President João Lourenço in the White House in late November 2023 to promote substantial investments in the country and to show off the future trajectory of their relations, particularly in developing infrastructure. The two presidents had extensive talks on working together on important issues including trade, energy, the environment, and a $1 billion infrastructure project supported by the United States that will boost Angola’s economy. 

Countering US and Africa Presence

The Biden-Harris administration has placed a high priority on building extensive, multidimensional connections with several African nations. Additionally acting as a powerful leverage point between the United States and Africa is the recently established Diaspora Secretariat under the Presidency. The World Bank estimates that the diaspora sent $68 billion in remittances. Vice President Kamala Devi Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have assumed responsibility for reviewing summit promises, keeping an eye on the growth of friendly diplomatic ties, advocating for increased bilateral trade, and securing investment partners vital for the development of the roughly 1.4 billion-person continent, even though Biden has yet to fulfill his heartfelt promise to visit Africa.

In a bottom shell, a number of West African nations eager to capitalize on its soft power and the revitalized AGOA have subtly backed the United States, uniting on positions like denouncing Russia’s incursion into Ukraine. Unlike its predecessor, Donald Trump, the Biden-Harris administration has also stated its commitment to improving present ties with Africa. Beijing leverages its clout in the region to get first dibs on the continent’s natural resources, create new export markets, and win African support for its political objectives both inside and outside of the region.