Yellen woos Africa as US vies for influence with China, Russia


US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, declaring that African can help shape the future of the global economy, will set out why the Biden administration intends to elevate its focus on the continent over the next two years in a speech she’s slated to deliver Friday in Dakar, Senegal.

“The United States is committed to building on Africa’s significant progress in economic development over the past few decades,” Yellen said in excerpts of the speech released by the Treasury. “Africa’s success will mean success for all of us, and the United States is here as a partner to help Africa realise its massive economic potential.”

Yellen reiterated the Biden administration’s support for including the African Union, which Senegal currently chairs, as a permanent member in the Group of 20, a forum in which the world’s largest economies seek to address global issues.

“Africa’s voice should not be one of an invited guest, but that of a full member,” she said in her remarks, which were due to be made at a local business incubator for women and young entrepreneurs.

The excerpts — the full speech will be released on Friday — contained no mention of China or Russia, whose engagements in the developing world have spurred the US to take a renewed interest in Africa.

China is now the largest creditor to emerging markets, giving it outsized influence in ongoing debt-relief negotiations with a number of poor countries, and Russia’s increasingly close ties in Africa have shielded it somewhat from additional condemnation over its invasion of Ukraine.

Yellen, who is spending 10 days in Africa, is due to arrive in South Africa on January 24, just a day after that country hosts Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. South Africa is also scheduled to conduct naval exercises off its eastern coast with Russian and Chinese warships February 17 to February 26.

In her remarks, Yellen will also urge African governments to embrace the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.

“The continent is particularly well placed to take advantage of energy from renewable sources like the wind, sun and geothermal” energy, she said.

The comments come with some irony as Senegal is on the verge of becoming a significant fossil-fuel producer. A new offshore project straddling its border with Mauritania is projected to bring Senegal $1.4 billion of oil and gas revenue from 2023 to 2025. The project may also provide Europe with energy relief as it turns away from Russian gas and oil.

© 2023 Bloomberg

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