By Spy Uganda
Leaders across Africa, President of Uganda Yoweri Kaguta Museveni inclusive congratulated Joe Biden for his election win, expressing hope that his presidency will boost ties between countries on the continent and the United States.
Donald Trump never visited a country in sub-Saharan Africa after assuming office in January 2017, and many observers agree that the president effectively ignored the continent, at best – and insulted it, at worst.
But what could a Biden presidency mean for the continent? political pundits from various fields shared their views saying Biden will be different than Trump, as Barack Obama was different than George W Bush.
Sure, there is a sigh of relief in seeing Trump’s presidency coming to an end, but let us not forget that the domestic challenge will demand much of his attention. Africa is likely be set on autopilot.
The Obama-Biden administration held out the most tantalising prospects yet only delivered symbolic politics. It continued a trend, inherited from the Bush government, of normalisation of counterterrorism, the instrumentalisation of foreign aid for securitisation purposes and the militarisation of its foreign policy in Africa.
Biden’s promise to “reengage with world” is a welcome move. We are, however, neither naive nor complacent.
Africa needs investment and technology transfer to build infrastructure, to mechanise its agriculture and create jobs for its youth. We therefore expect him to engage Africa as a serious trade and investment partner and a pivotal actor in global politics. We urge him to take [a] cue from the African Union and to work closely with the continental institution to elaborate policies that are mutually beneficial.
Africa is way ahead of the US in many respects. We have had two female presidents, several female ministers of defence and finance as well as female vice presidents, while it took 243 years for the US to elect its first woman vice president. Africa is well-schooled in handling pre and post-election disputes.
Overall, Africa has witnessed a marked reduction in US official development assistance and investment since the Obama presidency. The Biden-Harris campaign website contains a rather colourless set of policy cliches on the African Diaspora and Africa. In short, it does not seem as though Biden cares enough about or has given sufficient thought to US-Africa relations. This lack of nuanced policy – if not addressed – may mean a lot less resource investment in Africa or simply more of the same.
Whilst the Biden-Harris ticket owes African Americans and persons of colour a huge debt, it does not owe Africa anything at all. If anything, African leaders owe their citizens a much higher level of seriousness and unity. Without a structured engagement by the collective African leadership, it is safe to say hope lies in three things: who Biden appoints as secretary of state and secretary for Africa, respectively; how the Harris effect plays out in handling global affairs as well as issues pertaining to people of colour, human rights and migration; [and] where and how Biden and Harris choose their priorities and investments.
With Biden at the helm, the US can begin again to lead efforts to find solutions to the most important problems facing the country and the world: The pandemic, the environment, racial justice, the occupation of Palestine and more. Moreover, Trump’s personal character, his total lack of decency, made him a terrible model for political leadership anywhere.
Biden’s victory is good news to all who kept faith in the process of democracy as they witnessed how America’s democracy was subjected to an unprecedented test in its recent history, yet it has prevailed.
For Africa, it demonstrates the power of checks and balances and the importance of governance that is anchored on rule of law and human rights.
Millions in the continent have watched how great was the number of Americans who stood up and spoke in favour of racial justice, inclusion and human rights and turned that into an active and peaceful engagement in the political process of their country. Many will want to initiate or consolidate reforms in their own countries.
Biden’s election helps to restore confidence in democracy and democratic process at a time when the African political landscape is undergoing a seismic shift. In the past few years, we observed with concern as the US backslid in its international human rights obligations and its support to human rights work globally.
A return to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Paris Agreement on climate could be the examples to start with. I also hope his presidency will usher in and demonstrate [a] renewed era of cooperation between the US and Africa based on principles of human rights and equality.
The coming of Biden potentially promises to restore all these. On a continent that sadly needs the West more than the other way round, never under-estimate the renewing powers of this prospect in the minds of those shouldering the loftiest individual and national aspirations everywhere in Africa.
This is a very turbulent election – and the fact that it is happening in the US today sends a timely reminder to the rest of the world and especially African countries that even established democracies such as the US can sometimes be affected by poor leadership.
While most African strongmen were emboldened by Trump to oppress people further, Biden’s win could send a different message altogether, provided that his foreign policies are sound and diverge from the current administration’s policy towards Africa.
For countries in Africa and elsewhere, the end of the Trump presidency could not come sooner. In international affairs, the weaker states benefit significantly from multilateralism – where regardless of power, each country gets one vote.