US to relaunch Leaders Summit to compete with China & Russia in Africa

By Julian Pecquet
Posted on Monday, 1 August 2022 18:05, updated on Friday, 5 August 2022 16:11

American President Joe Biden and Head of Congolese State Félix Tshisekedi at the G20 summit in Rome, 31 October 2021. © Adam Schultz/White House/ZUMA Press/REA

President Barack Obama hosted the first US-Africa Leaders Summit in August 2014 with the stated intent to “help launch a new chapter in US-African relations.”

Immensely popular across the continent, America’s first Black president hosted almost 50 heads of state for a historic three-day event to “send a very clear signal that we are elevating our engagement with Africa.” The inaugural summit was widely seen as a belated US response to increased African political and economic engagement with other countries, notably China.

Eight years on, the US has only continued to lose ground to its competitors in Africa.

China has been the continent’s top trading partner since 2009. Meanwhile two-way trade in goods with the US has only continued to decline since the first summit, from $72.6bn in 2014 to $62.3bn last year.

Moscow has likewise been making inroads, with the Kremlin-backed mercenaries of the Wagner Group now operating in as many as 18 African countries, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington. Russian diplomacy is also on the case, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov touring Egypt, the Republic of Congo, Uganda and Ethiopia in July to blame western sanctions for the food crisis on the continent rather than President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.