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Antony Blinken, Secretary of State of the United States, began this Sunday a tour of three countries on the African continent, starting with South Africa. The official’s visit is seen as part of a competition between Russia and China against the United States and Western powers for market leadership in Africa and support for Ukraine after its invasion.
To end his international tour, which also took him to Cambodia and the Philippines, the United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, arrived in South Africa to start his three-country agenda in Africa. His trip to the continent follows on the heels of recent visits by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and French President Emmanuel Macron.
The head of US diplomacy is expected to participate in different events such as the “United States-South Africa Strategic Dialogue” in Pretoria and acts of the celebration of Women’s Day, which will be commemorated on Tuesday, August 9.
A press conference with the South African Minister of International Relations, Naledi Pandor, is also scheduled on the agenda, where new announcements are expected about the position of the African country in the face of the war in Ukraine.
South Africa is Washington’s largest trading partner on the continent, as well as being Africa’s most stable and developed economy. Since the war between Ukraine and Russia began more than five months ago, the government of President Cyril Ramaphosa has remained neutral, without any public criticism of Moscow.
According to the State Department, Blinken will present the “US strategy for sub-Saharan Africa” in South Africa. The entity said that “African countries are strategic actors and critical partners in the most pressing issues of our day.”
The tour of the US official seeks support for Ukraine after the Russian invasion, in addition to strengthening its relations with South Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Rwanda in the face of the growing economic and political influence of China and Russia on that continent.
This is Blinken’s second tour of Africa. Last November he had already visited Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal. Later, in July, his Russian counterpart visited Egypt, Uganda, Ethiopia and the Republic of the Congo.
“The role of the African continent in our foreign policy will increase and it will do so significantly. This will happen regardless of what happens in relations with the West,” the Russian official said in late July from Uganda.
Before his arrival in South Africa, Blinken tweeted that the United States has provided nearly $6.6 billion in 2022 for humanitarian assistance in Africa.
The collateral effects on the African economy of the war in Ukraine
Due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the continent has been strongly affected by the increase in the prices of oil, food and other basic products, generating a food crisis that is already affecting Thousands.
To deal with this situation, Macky Sall, head of state of Senegal and interim president of the African Union (AU), pressured Western countries since June to lift the sanctions that prevented the export of Russian wheat and fertilizers.
With the signing of the agreement between Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN to allow the export of cereals from the Black Sea ports, the AU is optimistic and hopes that it will be a first measure that will serve to improve the food crisis on the African continent.
Linda Thomas-Greenfiel, US ambassador to the UN, said last Friday from Ghana that in Africa “more than 40 million people will suffer from food insecurity since President Putin chose to invade his neighbor and steal his land.”
A silent partner increasing its presence in Africa
Currently, China is the main trading partner in Africa. Through the ‘One Belt, One Road’ strategy, the Asian giant has achieved the construction of numerous infrastructure projects in African countries.
This new visit by Blinken seeks to improve trade relations with Africa to achieve a reduction in trade ties between China and the African continent.
In the same competitive context, French President Emmanuel Macron visited Cameroon, Benin and Guinea-Bissau last month. On the trip, he also took the opportunity to accuse the Putin government of using food and fuel as “weapons of war”.
Blinken’s tour of the continent will continue to the DRC on August 9-10, where the Secretary of State is expected to meet with senior Congolese executive officials and civil society representatives. The elections to be held in 2023 will be a key issue in his visit.
To end his trip, the US Foreign Minister will visit Rwanda for two days, from August 10 to 11. As reported by the State Department, the secretary will speak on “the role that the Government of Rwanda can play in reducing ongoing tensions and violence in eastern DRC.”
With EFE and AP