Will Biden deliver on his commitment to Africa in 2022?
When he was running to win the White House, President Joe Biden’s campaign committed to implement a “bold strategy” toward Africa, and one that would be based on a “mutually respectful engagement” and a reinvigorated diplomacy, if elected. Indeed, the campaign was the first ever to outline how it would promote the interests of the African diaspora in the United States. On his 16th day in office, President Biden sent a video message to African leaders attending the 34th African Union Summit that promised American partnership and solidarity on a range of critical issues. The message was a welcome departure from former President Donald Trump’s disparaging characterization of the continent.
Given this promising start, few would have predicted that almost one year later the Biden Administration would have imposed an omicron-inspired travel ban on eight countries in southern Africa. The ban, which was criticized by regional leaders as “unfair, discriminatory and unnecessary,” coincided with the withdrawal of benefits of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) from three other African countries. As surprisingly, members of the African diaspora—especially those from Ethiopia—were vocal in supporting the Republican candidate for governor in Virginia because of what some claimed to be the “pain of neglect,” as it concerned the administration’s handling of the conflict in Ethiopia. In fact, ending the conflict and the devastating humanitarian crisis in the Tigray region consumed much of the administration’s attention to Africa last year.