Africa Is Key for Non-Aligned Movement

Africa has become a key theater in the battle between the current “rules-based order” and the new economic order emerging. That was reflected in intense diplomatic activity during the month of January. China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang visited Ethiopia, Gabon, Angola, Benin and Egypt Jan. 10-16 (cf. SAS 3/23), while Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov traveled to South Africa, Angola, Eswatini (former Swaziland) and Eritrea Jan. 23-26. Simultaneously, the Biden Administration chose not to send its top diplomat, but its finance minister, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, on a ten day trip which took her to Senegal, Zambia and South Africa (Jan. 18-27).

South Africa has taken on a special importance this year, as it has assumed the rotating chairmanship of the BRICS, which is expected to expand by as many as nine new member countries in the coming months. It is also a key forum for implementing a transition out of the dollar system, and toward the use of national and regional currencies in international trade, as Sergei Lavrov reportedly stressed throughout his trip. For starters, the five BRICS nations could create a currency of their own.

South Africa, like most African countries, has refused to be drawn into the “West versus Russia and China” competition, favoring a non-aligned status. Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor has been quite outspoken on the subject. Just recently, concerning a bill introduced in the U.S. Congress that would impose sanctions and restrictions on African countries that are involved in activities with Russia considered harmful to Washington’s objectives and interests, she proposed that it should be “torn up” and not “proceed in any form or state”.

Janet Yellen’s purpose in Africa was more specifically to counter China’s influence on the continent – but with a new twist to it. The direct attacks on Beijing’s policy have had to be somewhat toned down, since the countries participating in the Dec. 13-15 U.S.-Africa Summit in Washington made clear that they would not take sides in the U.S. fight with China. So Ms. Yellen arrived with a new scheme in her pocket (cf. below).

Before leaving the billionaire’s get-together in Davos for Africa, the U.S. Treasury Secretary claimed, with little credibility, that Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He had assured her of China’s support for Washington’s efforts on “debt relief” for Africa. However, the Chinese Embassy in Zambia issued a statement the day she arrived, scolding the U.S. for contributing to the debt crisis in the world through its inflationary policies and raising of interest rates. The embassy’s statement basically advised Washington to worry about its own debt crisis – which now amounts to $31 trillion (!) — which puts it in a disadvantageous position to dictate to other nations how to solve their problems.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email