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US: Who will advise President Joe Biden on Africa?

By Jeune Afrique
Posted on Monday, 9 November 2020 17:44

JOE BIDEN
President-elect Joe Biden waves as he arrives Monday, Nov. 9, 2020, at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware, US. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Victorious over Donald Trump, Democrat Joe Biden surrounded himself during his presidential election campaign with several people familiar with the continent, many of whom had served under the Clinton and Obama administrations.

This is not a surprise: Biden, who was Vice President to Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States, has selected members from these former administrations to build his campaign team, particularly in the area of Foreign Affairs.

Former White House advisers, veterans of the State Department or former ambassadors, these are the men and women who are advising Joe Biden on his possible future African policy.

Antony Blinken

antony blinken
Antony Blinken listens to South Korea Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam during a press conference on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016 (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, File)

This 58-year-old French-speaking New Yorker (who spent some of his school years in Paris) is Biden’s main advisor on international affairs. He was a former member of the Clinton administration and has known Biden for a long time. He has notably worked with him in the Senate, in the Foreign Affairs Committee, and worked on his campaign for the Democratic nomination in the 2008 presidential election, before joining Barack Obama’s campaign.

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He served as Vice President Biden’s national security advisor from 2009 to 2013, then as deputy national security advisor to the National Security Council under Susan Rice until 2015, and then as assistant secretary of state until the end of Obama’s term.

Blinken, who has made official trips to Morocco, Djibouti, Nigeria and South Africa has expressed his support for a stronger US-Africa partnership.

Susan Rice

Susan Rice
Susan Rice takes part in a discussion on global leadership at Vanderbilt University Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Nashville, US. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

She was favourite to become Joe Biden’s running mate in the November election, until Kamala Harris was finally chosen. National security advisor from 2013 to 2017 under President Obama, she served primarily as assistant secretary of state for African affairs from 1997 to 2001 – working on the crises in Zaire, Sierra Leone, and between Ethiopia and Eritrea, among others.

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The first black woman to represent the US at the UN – from 2009 to 2013 – Rice, 55, was a key player in the passage of the resolution for international intervention in Libya at the Security Council, with the help of National Security Advisor Samantha Power – who succeeded her at the UN – and under the leadership of Hillary Clinton.

Having served as advisor to John Kerry in 2004 and then to Obama in 2008, she is a veteran of presidential campaigns.

Nicholas Burns

burns nicholas
Nicholas Burns announces in Washington, Friday, Jan. 18, 2008. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

This 64-year-old diplomat began his career in the White House under the George H.W. Bush administration in 1990. He then remained in office under Clinton, before moving to the State Department under Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright.

The general public may know him primarily for his analyses on NATO and Russia. However he is also knowledgeable about the African continent and the Maghreb.

Burns (who speaks French and Arabic) began as an intern at the embassy in Nouakchott, Mauritania. He then became vice-consul and staff assistant to the ambassador to Egypt from 1983 to 1985.

Involved in US policy in the Middle East, he also spent several years at the consulate in Jerusalem, coordinating US assistance to the Palestinian population in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Michelle Gavin

A former US ambassador to Botswana (2011-2014) and former US representative to the Southern African Development Community (SADC), she is one of Biden’s key Africa specialists.

A graduate of Oxford and Georgetown University, she began her career in the Senate, serving on the Subcommittee on African Affairs.

A 47-year-old veteran diplomat, Gavin – whose first African experience dates back to 1994 in Cameroon – also worked as President Obama’s special assistant for Africa on the National Security Council before becoming ambassador.

She is now a member of the board of the Africa-America Institute, which was founded in 1953 to promote greater engagement between the continent and the US – and which has included former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.

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