Aug 8, 2022 - World

Biden won't force African countries to choose U.S. or China, Blinken says

Blinken lays out Biden's Africa strategy in Pretoria, South Africa. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool via Getty

Secretary of State Tony Blinken unveiled the Biden administration's Africa strategy in South Africa on Monday.

Why it matters: One element of that strategy is not to force countries to choose between the U.S. and China or Russia. "The United States will not dictate Africa’s choices," Blinken said. "Neither should anyone else."

  • His South African counterpart, Naledi Pandor, said during a joint press conference that some actors — though not the Biden administration — try to "bully" African countries into certain decisions, but that won't work.
  • Pandor added that conflict between the U.S. and China is economically "destabilizing" and African countries must not be "made party to" it. "These are the two biggest economies in the world. They've got to find a way of working together to allow us to grow."

Yes, but: For all the rhetoric about not forcing countries to choose, Blinken's remarks came four days after UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield warned in Uganda that buying anything from Russia other than agricultural products could lead to sanctions.

  • Most African countries, including South Africa, have declined to join Western sanctions or condemn Moscow's Ukraine invasion.

What's next: Blinken will head to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda to try to dial down tensions and the risk of full-scale war.

  • An unpublished report submitted to the UN Security Council supports the DRC's claims that Rwandan forces are working with M23 rebels to mount operations in resource-rich eastern Congo, per the FT.
  • The current conflict has echoes of the devastating Congo wars of the 1990s.

Biden will host a summit of African leaders in December.

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