Security crises (Ethiopia, Sudan, Sahel) seem to occupy the top of the African agenda of the administration of Joe Biden. And the most visible collaborator in Africa of the 46th American president is his secretary of state, Anthony Blinkenwhich intervenes sometimes in the conflict in Tigray, sometimes about Russian inclinations in Mali.
However, from the start of his mandate, Joe Biden put together a solid team of experienced diplomats and experts in development and finance. – many of whom were born on the continent – at the forefront of its efforts towards Africa. If, in 2020, the African continent accounted for only about 1.2% of the international trade in goods of the United States – i.e. less than Italy (1.8%) –, this represents more than 50 billion dollars per year in recent years. Over the first nine months of the year, the African trade surplus reached 8.7 billion dollars.
The stock of American foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa reached $43 billion in 2019, almost as much as China ($44 billion). Furthermore, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and Development Finance Corporation (US DFC) are among the few donors capable of signing checks for 500 million dollars for African projects. Finally, the United States occupies a preponderant voice within institutions such as the African Development Bank (AfDB), the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
A former banker who worked for JP Morgan and private equity investor Carlyle, Alice P. Albright was chosen by Joe Biden to lead the Millennium Challenge Corporation. This development agency, which specializes in supporting developing countries, provides grants in the form of multi-year “compacts” signed according to compliance with several criteria of governance and effectiveness of public action. Senegal ($550 million), Côte d’Ivoire ($525 million) and Benin ($375 million) benefited.
After her time in the private sector, the one whose mother, Madeleine Albright, was the first American secretary of state, joined Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, as director of operations for eight years, then the global partnership for the education which she had led since 2013.
On African subjects, Alice Albright will work closely with Samantha Power, administrator of USAid, the American development assistance agency. A former journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize for a book on genocide, this specialist in international relations was ambassador to the United Nations during the Obama administration. His agency, which employs more than 10,000 people, invested more than $22 billion over one year at the end of September 2020, including more than $700 million in DR Congo, Nigeria and Ethiopia respectively, and nearly a half a billion in South Sudan, as well as in Kenya and Uganda.
Since 2019, the US government has supported 800 trade and investment agreements in 45 African countries
The American president chose Enoh T.Ebong to pilot United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA). A native of Nigeria, this business lawyer, specialist in IPOs and mergers and acquisitions, spent fifteen years with the American agency responsible for promoting “the export of American goods and services for priority infrastructure projects in emerging economies”.
The latter claims to have “facilitated more than 76 billion dollars of American exports since its creation in 1992”. In Africa, it is involved in the Power Africa (electricity), Access Africa (ICT) and Prosper Africa initiatives. Launched under the previous administration, and redesigned to boost investment and trade between the United States and Africa in a more “sustainable” way, Prosper Africa involves around fifteen American ministries and agencies. Since the launch of Prosper Africa in June 2019, the US government has supported 800 trade and investment agreements in 45 countries, for an estimated value of $50 billion.
US International Development Finance Corporation (US DFC), the mega-development institution born from the merger in 2019 of Opic (loans to structures registered in the United States for international projects) and Development Credit Authority (lending entity of the ‘USAid) saw its investment stock ceiling double to $60 billion. The management of this structure belongs to Scott Nathan, appointed in August by Joe Biden. A veteran of finance, who worked for the investment fund The Baupost Group, this holder of an MBA from Harvard Business School had worked as a special representative for Commercial Affairs at the State Department during Obama’s mandates.
In the African apparatus of the Biden administration, it is also necessary to mention Oren E. Whyche-Shaw. The former executive of the Treasury Department and USAid, where she spent eight years, claims to have provided “8.1 billion dollars in aid to 42 African countries”. The US presidency chose her in September to be “United States Administrator at the African Development Bank for a five-year term”.
His predecessor J. Steven Dowd found himself at the heart of the controversies which marked the end of the first mandate of the current president of the AfDB, with some accusing him of supporting dissidents and “whistleblowers” who contested the governance of Akinwumi Adesina. An independent audit report cleared him of all suspicion. Oren E. Whyche-Shaw is familiar with the pan-African institution, where she headed the “Private Sector Investment Operations” division between 1998 and 2000.
By virtue of its vast powers of financial sanctions which can affect any personality, companies or banks having recourse to the “greenback”, American diplomacy is never entirely separated from an economic superego. The result: very strong cooperation between the Secretary of the Treasury, Anthony Blinkenthe country’s top diplomat, and the powerful Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellenwhose department draws up and enforces the sanctions lists.
Gabon is a world leader in climate
The latter is assisted in most of her functions by the Deputy Secretary to the Treasury, Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo, born in Nigeria in 1981, graduated from Berkeley and Yale, former Deputy National Security Advisor during the administration of Barack Obama, of which he was the first president of the eponymous foundation (2019-2021). Career diplomat, passed by Nigeria, Kenya, Gambia and Liberia, Linda Thomas Greenfield has been the United States’ ambassador to the United Nations since February 2021, where she has multiplied her interventions on subjects related to climate change and its effects in the countries of the South, welcoming in particular “the role of Gabon as a leader global climate”.
Also within the Department of State, the most senior official on continental matters is Mary Catherine Pheeformer Ambassador to South Sudan, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs since September, and Trustee of the United States African Development Foundation (USADF), which annually approves more than $30 million in donations for African projects .
Questioned by US senators in July, the diplomat pledged that “US embassies in sub-Saharan Africa will act to address the Chinese challenge to the rules-based international order”, as well as to “expand trade and bilateral investments and to advance the regional objectives of the African Continental Free Trade Area”. From the security ranks, Dana Banks, a former diplomat in South Africa and Togo, now senior director for Africa at the National Security Council, figures prominently in initiatives related to the continent, particularly within the framework of Prosper Africa.