- The United States has been working to increase its economic and political engagement with Africa in recent years.
- Yellen arrived in Dakar, fresh off a nearly three-hour meeting with China’s vice premier Liu He.
- The Biden administration is trying to counter China’s growing influence and infrastructure in the region by offering African countries an alternative path on economic and political security
US-Africa relations have been on the rise in recent years, and the recent visit by US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to Senegal has further solidified the commitment of the United States to expand economic opportunities for all in Africa.
Yellen’s visit to Senegal, which took place on January 18, 2023, was a clear demonstration of the importance the United States places on its relationship with Africa. During her visit, Yellen met with young entrepreneurs and business leaders, and delivered a speech emphasizing the potential of Africa’s young entrepreneurs and the positive impact they are having on their communities and economies.
The young entrepreneurs she met are business owners in food processing, baby food production, cosmetics, digital marketing and sanitation, among other sectors.
“I’m here to underscore the importance the United States places on our relationship with Africa and our commitment to expanding economic opportunities for all,” Yellen said in her speech. “I have seen firsthand the incredible potential of Africa’s young entrepreneurs and the positive impact they are having on their communities and economies.”
The United States has been working to increase its economic and political engagement with Africa in recent years, and Yellen’s visit indicates the continued commitment to this effort. In her speech, Yellen outlined the United States’ plans to work with African nations to promote economic growth, create jobs, and improve living standards for all people.
“The United States is committed to working with African nations to promote economic growth, create jobs, and improve living standards for all people,” Yellen said. “I believe that by working together, we can build a brighter future for Africa and for the United States.”
She talked about how the U.S. Development Finance Corp. has committed more than US$11 billion across Africa and how the Millennium Challenge Corp., a U.S. foreign assistance agency, is working in 14 African countries with more than US$3 billion in active programs, with more in the pipeline.
“We intend to invest over US$350 million to expand affordable internet access and boost digital skills and entrepreneurship,” she said.
The Biden administration is trying to counter China’s growing influence and infrastructure in the region by offering African countries an alternative path on economic and political security. Underneath the continent are some of the world’s biggest reserves of critical minerals, crucial to the Biden’s administration’s plans to transition the world to greener energy. At the same time, Africa’s exploding population will demand a bigger share of the world’s jobs and energy resources.
While China has deployed billions of dollars in Africa in its belt and road initiative, some leaders have bristled at the debt burdens of doing business with Beijing. The Biden administration wants to offer an alternative.
“The international community, including China, needs to provide meaningful debt relief to help countries regain their footing,” she said. “Timely debt relief is in the interests of both debtors and creditors.”
Yellen arrived in Dakar, fresh off a nearly three-hour meeting with China’s vice premier Liu He, where both leaders tried to lower the temperature in bilateral relations and pledged better communications for the sake of the global economy. Yellen’s trip will be a mixture of soft diplomacy and firm offers on what the U.S. government and businesses can do to improve the quality of life for Africans. But she’ll also acknowledge the hardships – and historical wrongs – Africans have suffered on America’s path to prosperity, starting with the forced journey of enslaved people to America’s shores.
There are several other reasons why the US Treasury Secretary chose to visit Senegal as part of her Africa trip. One of the main reasons is that Senegal has a reputation for being a stable and democratic country in West Africa. This makes it a good choice for a first visit as it sets a positive tone for the rest of the trip.
Senegal is also a major economic player in West Africa and has a strong private sector. This makes it an ideal place to meet with young entrepreneurs and business leaders to discuss economic growth and job creation.
Additionally, Senegal has a rich cultural heritage and a history of peaceful coexistence between different ethnic groups, making it an ideal place to showcase American values of diversity and inclusion.
Finally, Senegal is also hosting the headquarters of the African Development Bank, which makes it a perfect venue to discuss and support the economic development of the continent.
Yellen’s next stop is Zambia, which is facing its own debt crisis. There, she’ll focus on global health and will tour a U.S. lab that employs locals to distribute anti-malarial medicine. She will end her trip in South Africa, long the economic anchor of the continent but which now faces significant challenges. The country’s electricity grid is failing, causing regular blackouts and protests. While there, she’ll visit the coal mining region and discuss U.S. efforts to help South Africa transition to cleaner energy.
The visit by Yellen to Senegal is a positive step forward for US-Africa relations and it is clear that the United States sees Africa as an important economic partner. The potential for economic growth and prosperity in Africa is immense, and the United States is committed to working with African nations to unlock this potential.