Will the US deliver on its promises to Africa?

Will the US deliver on its promises to Africa?

Plus: Greece passes a budget, Ireland welcomes a new leader, and Tunisians protest parliamentary elections

Hi there Intriguer. In news that might only be of interest to our Australian readers, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been announced as Australia’s next Ambassador to the United States. Rudd is fluent in Mandarin and well versed on all things China, and his appointment is a clear sign that Australia-US relations will remain centred on managing China’s rise. Rudd’s appointment got us thinking… how many other former leaders of a country have taken a ‘demotion’ to be an ambassador? Write in if you can think of any!

Today’s briefing is a ~5.1 min read:

  • ❤️‍🩹 US-Africa Summit: Patching up a rocky relationship.
  • ➕ Plus: Greece passes a budget, Ireland welcomes a new leader, and Tunisians protest parliamentary elections.

Will the US deliver on its promises to Africa?

In brief:

  • The US invited 49 African leaders to attend its second-ever US-Africa summit, focusing on trade, security, and climate.
  • But some African leaders worry the Summit was yet another forum for American platitudes.

One big happy family. Credit: US Department of State.

Come one, come all!

The three-day US-Africa Summit ended last Thursday – much to the delight of Washington, DC’s commuters. There were significant pledges from American officials and a healthy dose of scepticism from African leaders.

  • Understandably so: President Obama’s big promises during the inaugural US-Africa Summit in 2014 were followed by foreign aid cuts.
  • And President Trump paired his epithets about the continent with travel bans, trade restrictions, and direct investment cuts.

The US withdrawal from the continent, at times benign and others malign, has left a void for other world powers to fill.

On the agenda

Here’s why the US sees that as a problem and what it plans to do about it:

1. 🚢 Trade 

The what: Africa’s economic might is growing. According to the White House, the continent has the fifth-largest combined economy in the world, and will be home to 25% of the world’s population in 2050.

  • Plus, its combined economy is expected to grow ~900% in the next three decades.

The why: The US is falling behind its competitors in outreach to Africa, netting only $64.3B of bilateral trade in 2021.

  • EU-Africa trade was $280B in 2021, and India-Africa trade reached $89.5B
  • Trade between China and Africa totalled $254B in 2021, up from $10.6B in 2000.

The plan: Facilitate billions in private sector trade and investment, and support the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area.

2. 🔒 Security 

The what: Some analysts say US security policy in Africa over the past decade has been a failure. Despite billions spent fighting terrorism and supporting African security forces, extremism across the continent has increased by 300% in that time.

The why: As a result, some African countries no longer see the US or its allies as reliable security guarantors and have sought partners elsewhere.

  • Djibouti has hosted a Chinese Naval Base (China’s first overseas military installation) since 2017.
  • And Russian mercenaries have replaced French forces in West Africa.

The plan: Promote good governance and economic opportunity as a means of fighting extremism and limiting China’s and Russia’s military footprints.

3. 🌱 Climate 

The what: Africa contributes less than 4% of global greenhouse emissions yet suffers immensely from climate change.

  • As its population grows, gains access to electricity, and moves to urban areas, Africa will need to increase its energy supply – either through fossil fuels or renewables.

The why: Climate change’s immediate impacts may be felt locally, but its consequences span the region and the globe.

  • Droughts, famines, and floods create fertile recruiting environments for extremist groups, and also contribute towards Europe’s migration crisis.

The plan: Support renewable energy plans through the US’s Power Africa initiative, and increase climate resilience funding.

“Don’t tell me your values, show me your budget.”

So says former US Vice President Joe Biden.

Now-President Biden insists that the 49-member US-Africa Summit will prove a turning point in America’s relationship with the continent.

  • In addition to an estimated $55B in new investment over the next three years, Biden called for the African Union to become a permanent member of the G20.

But the scale of China’s investments and its willingness to accept less values-based relationships means the fight for influence in Africa will be tough.


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🇫🇷 France

French prosecutors raided the headquarter of French President Emmanuel Macron’s party Renaissance last week.

  • They’re investigating whether consulting firm McKinsey was given special privileges in acquiring government contracts in exchange for services on Macron’s campaigns.

🇩🇪 Germany

WTF news of the week: approximately 1,500 exotic fish and one million litres of water spilt across a busy Berlin street on Friday after a massive hotel aquarium burst.

  • The tank was built in 2003 and considered the largest of its kind in the world.

🇬🇷 Greece

For the first time in 13 years, Greek lawmakers wrote and passed a budget without supervision from its creditors at the IMF or EU.

  • As part of its bailout terms from the EU, Greece must maintain a budget surplus.

🇮🇪 Ireland

Leo Varadkar has taken over from Micheál Martin as Ireland’s taoiseach (prime minister) per their parties’ power-sharing agreement.

  • It is the first-ever swap of the top job, and will keep Mr Varadkar (who served as taoiseach from 2017-2020) in office until 2025.

🇲🇩 Moldova

Moldovan regulators suspended six broadcasters accused of making “attempts to manipulate public opinion” on Russia’s behalf.  

  • The suspension is expected to last at least until Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ends.

Tunisians refuse to participate in elections

How Tunisians responded to parliamentary elections over the weekend. Via: Giphy.

The news: Only 800,000 of 9 million registered voters in Tunisia turned out for parliamentary elections on Saturday.

  • The 8.8% turnout was the “lowest turnout of any election in modern global history”, according to Max Gallien of the Institute of Development Studies.

Backtrack: In early 2021, Tunisians began protesting the economic and public health failures of Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi’s government.

  • On 25 July last year, President Kais Saied dismissed Mechichi and assumed all executive power in a move many analysts described as a coup.
  • A year to the day later, Tunisians voted for a new constitution that cemented one-man rule and curtailed civil rights; but only 30% of Tunisians turned out to vote. 

Tunisia has not fared well since Saied’s power grab. Its economy is in free fall, and record numbers of people are fleeing the country.

The Arab Spring began in Tunisia in 2011 when protestors ended the 23-year dictatorship of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Now, as millions of voters boycott elections, opposition leaders say Saied has lost his mandate to rule.

But Saied may take the wrong lessons from the election boycott, according to expert Youssef Cherif:

“This is a new regime that cares about the supreme leader more than the parliament. Low participation will confirm their disdain towards party and parliamentary politics. They will say that people don’t want a parliament; that they only look for a strong leader.”


North Korea has conducted several more missile tests since this data was published on 2 November. Credit: Statista.

On Sunday, North Korea launched two more ballistic missiles off the Sea of Japan, capping a ‘banner year’ for its missile program.

So, with North Korea likely to resume nuclear tests next year for the first time since 2017, what should policymakers do to halt the slide towards conflict?

One way is to try engagement, and learning some lessons from 2018 (when US negotiations with North Korea yielded a year without missile tests). But since pre-conditions are likely to include North Korea’s denuclearisation, talks aren’t expected to restart anytime soon.

Still, let’s hope 2023 is the year the world takes a stronger crack at diplomacy.

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