blinken africa

Written by Areej Haider 7:05 pm Articles, International Relations, Published Content

Blinken’s Africa Visit: The China-Russia Threat

Seeing as the African nations hold huge importance in terms of resources and strategic location, the US finds China and Russia’s visits to the region concerning. In view of that, on 8th August, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken paid a visit to South Africa to further its relations with the African nation.
About the Author(s)
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Ms Areej Haider is studying International Relations at National Defence University Islamabad. She has a keen interest in national and international politics, especially South Asian and Middle Eastern politics.

Introduction

“A great power is a state which excels in size of population and territory, resource endowment, economic capability, military strength, political stability, and competence.”Alexander Waltz

By attaining such characteristics, a state not only influences other states in terms of politics, economy, military, and social values but eventually grows into a superpower on the chessboard of the international system. The end of World War II marked the emergence of a bipolar world characterized by the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as the two opposite rival great powers.

No great global conflict ensued during this era, maintaining peace for almost four decades. However, with the collapse of the USSR, the unipolar world rose with the US as the sole great power of the international system.

The World of Today

The world reshaped itself after the Cold war, and an evident change in the behaviour of the states was observed. The era after the 1980s brought the rise of multilateralism, interdependencies among states, border shrinking, economic maneuverability, and fewer military confrontations. Now, states seek to have a stronghold in global markets instead of involving themselves in military adventures.

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Diplomacy has transcended the option of war and conflicts. Today, the policies of the world are not made by a single state. Each state holds the power to say ‘No’. The West does not act as the sole powerful. The power has diffused, rather than centralized. Balance of power is the focus of states. Various economies are rising on the stage of global politics.

Africa’s Attraction

The multipolar world calls for states to gain resources and influence to excel in the race of being powerful. Regions and countries are now viewed as crucial in terms of market, strategic location, or resources. Africa is one such example. Despite being the second largest continent in the world, Africa received little prominence in the international arena in the past.

The reason might be the geographical location it holds. The Mediterranean Sea surrounds the African states from the north, the Red Sea from the northeast, the Indian Ocean from the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean from the west. The continent comprises 48 sovereign states and six islands. In total, there are 54 countries.

An estimated population reaches 1.34 billion people, making it 14 percent of the world population. Besides that, the continent is divided into Northern Africa, Western Africa, South Africa, Central Africa, and East Africa. Imperialism in Africa came to an end only after World War II; the process of decolonization continued till the 1970s.

The significance of Africa has intensified the engagements of the major powers in this region. The 21st century calls for the developed states to gain influence in Africa to fulfill their interests. States like the US, China, Russia, Japan, and France are now reconsidering their policies in Africa.

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Blinken Visiting Africa

On 8th August, the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken’s recent visit to South Africa is seen as part of maintaining relations in the region to counter the influence of other great powers. It was the first-ever visit by Secretary Blinken to the country and second to the region. Moreover, the stopover was for three days during which a trip to Africa was scheduled.  

The visit was made to repair the distorted relations of the US with the African states. Washington is very concerned about the growing relations between Russia, China, and the African countries. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda, and the Republic of Congo in the middle of July. The Russian visits were seen as part of countering Western narratives in the region.

South Africa and the US used to enjoy deep and good relations. Various levels of dialogue were discussed during Barak Obama’s administration. Unfortunately, the relations strained during Donald Trump’s tenure. Hence, the administration of Joe Biden has taken up pains to settle areas of conflict.

Antony Blinken said, “Washington will not dictate which choices Africa should make, neither should anyone else”. Furthermore, he said that “African nations have been treated as instruments of other nations’ progress, rather than the authors of their own.” Blinken also talked about the priorities—democracy, investment, security, Covid recovery support, and clean energy—that the US sees in the continent.

Additionally, concerning the coming elections in the region, Mr. Blinken said “Washington will not treat democracy as an area where Africa has problems and the United States has solutions but will recognize the common challenges to tackle together, as equals”. The words of Antony Blinken depict how far the US is concerned to grasp the administration and people of Africa in its favor.

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Blinken Defends Africa Against China and Russia

Africa has adopted a neutral position in the Russo-Ukraine war rather than siding with any party. The US Secretary of State toured a museum commemorating the country’s black youths who helped end white racist rule. Blinken also visited the Hector Pietersen memorial in Soweto township which honors a student killed in 1976 when protesting South Africa’s regime of racial oppression.

He also explored the museum, which contains artifacts, photographs, and videos of South Africa’s struggle against apartheid. Blinken also described the US’s strategies for sub-Saharan Africa in a major policy speech at the University of Pretoria. In his speech, Blinken countered the Russian argument that Western sanctions caused rising prices in the market affecting African countries.

Washington will host a US-Africa leaders’ summit in December to foster new economic engagement with the continent. The investments of China in the African continent are undeniable. Earlier this year, Beijing assured that it “will continue to play even a bigger role in peace and stability” in Africa.


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