Zim seeks to mend ties at US-Africa summit

Chris Mahove

At a time some African countries have stood with Russia in its conflict with neighbouring Ukraine, analysts believe the forthcoming US-Africa summit will not offer much for nations that have not supported America’s stance on the European nation.

Russia’s all-time African allies, Sudan, Mali, the Central Africa Republic, South Africa, Mozambique, Angola, Algeria, Madagascar, Namibia, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and Zimbabwe, did not vote with America abstained from a vote to impose sanctions on the European country .

African leaders will this month converge in the United States of America for the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit which seeks to foster cooperation between the US and Africa.

US President Joe Biden, in a statement, said the summit, to be held from December 13 to 15 in Washington, DC will demonstrate his country’s enduring commitment to Africa, and underscore the importance of U.S.-Africa relations and increased cooperation on shared global priorities.

More than 50 African leaders are expected to attend the summit, which Biden said would shape the future of not only Africa but the world.

But what opportunities are there for the continent and how will this summit help improve the political and economic fortunes of Africa, which has dragged behind for far too long?

Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade spokesperson, Livit Mugejo, said the country, under sanctions from the US and other Western countries, would use this opportunity to try and mend relations.

“Zimbabwe is going to take the opportunity provided by the US-Africa Summit to engage with the US officials and try to normalise our relations. Zimbabwe wishes to be a friend of all and an enemy of none,” Mugejo said.

Economic Analyst, Victor Boroma said for Africa, the biggest opportunity was getting access to the vast export market which the US presented.

“So what comes to mind is the extension of AGOA to the rest of Sub Saharan Africa and to Zimbabwe in particular,” he said.

But political analyst, Nunurai Zunidza, said nothing tangible had come out of the previous inaugural such summit where Zimbabwe did not participate.

He said now with the summit having been conceived amid the raging Russia-Ukraine conflict, and with the US on the side of Ukraine, it was likely to be centred on whipping the continent into line to support the West’s sanctions on Russia.

“They will be offered either that or withdrawal of supposed US aid. At a time of divided power in US domestic politics after the opposition Republican party took control of Congress there will not be much or any sustainable funding for Africa from US president Biden which funding can only come in the form of a promise if Africa agrees to play by US orders but that as we all know is not going to happen,” he said.

Another Economic Analyst, Prosper Chitambara said what Africa needed from the US were not freebies in the form of aid but investments, which he said would, however, come with conditions.

“So what we really need are investments not necessarily aid; but for us to be able to benefit from greater investment inflows especially from the US we need to improve our doing business environment, investment environments because that is a major challenge in most African economies including here in Zimbabwe,” he said.

African countries needed to enhance their doing business environment, their investment environments, ensure greater macro-economic stability, political stability and institutional reforms “to bring back confidence so that at least we can unlock greater investment inflows especially from the US, which is the biggest economy in the world,”.

Political analyst, Gideon Chitanga said the previous US Africa summit and the visit by Secretary Blinken to South Africa already set the tone for the meeting, noting that the focus was building closer relations between the US and Africa particularly in consideration of close relations between China and Africa in the past decade.

“So the US feels that it has fallen behind and is urgently exploring ways to forge ahead of China or is playing catch up game. The focus on the democracy in African countries; the US still believes that relations with African countries should be centred on liberal democratic values, i.e. respect for human rights, rule of law, constitutionalism and so on,” he said.

 Chitanga said, however, that some African countries tended to look at these issues within their historical context.

“Some countries have modelled fairly successful democracies. Some are behind and are still caught in the middle of refining and defining their political systems. The problem is in the context of Africa US relations, the expectation from the US in particular and the West in general that Africans should have democratic regimes has created problems for particularly economic engagements because the US and the West tend to advance relations on conditionality that is tied to liberal democracy, human rights, rule of law and so on,” he said.

He said the main concern for the African Union, for SADC and for South Africa and Zimbabwe itself at the moment was the issue of sanctions.

“So I think that if Zimbabwe is represented, which is very unlikely, the issue they will be looking at is pleading the case for the removal of sanctions and if Zimbabwe is not directly represented I think other African countries and institutions will still plead the case for the removal of sanctions whilst emphasizing that Zimbabwe is on a trajectory to rehabilitate itself back into the international community since the ostracization, isolation and sanctions from the beginning of 2002,” he said.

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