Can Joe Biden do better than Donald Trump in Africa?

Gersende RAMBOURG
After years of neglect by successive US presidents, Africans doubt Joe Biden’s globally celebrated electoral victory last week will bring miracles to the world’s poorest continent.
While South Africa’s Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF) dubbed the defeat of incumbent President Donald Trump a “relief”, other responses were more guarded.
“We celebrate the fact that we won’t have to watch him undermining democratic institutions… for another four years,” said the Foundation, named after South Africa’s first black president.
“Now begins the daunting task for the US of undoing the Trump administration’s deepening of racism, xenophobia, Afrophobia,” it added.
Trump, still president until January, did not make a good impression on Africans during his term.
Less than a year after he took office, he infamously praised the healthcare system of “Nambia” — mispronouncing Namibia — during a speech at the United Nations.
Months later he referred to Haiti and African nations as “… countries” during a closed-door meeting at the White House, sparking global outrage.
Many were displeased by Trump’s “barely respectful attitude” and restrictive immigration policies, said Dakar-based analyst Ousmane Sene, head of the West African Research Centre.
“During these four years (Trump) fuelled disenchantment and indifference,” he said. “It is evident from how little interest African media had for the US during that period.”
Biden has pledged to reverse many of the Trump administration’s immigration reforms that tightened restrictions on asylum seekers and refugees.
Under Trump, the US was mainly focused on its fight against terrorism as well as domestic aid programmes. Politics, diplomacy and economic reforms were sidelined.
In Africa, Washington merely finalised pre-established security agreements with Ghana, Niger and Senegal.
US troops also provided “vital support” to French forces in the restive Sahel region, noted American studies professor Pape Malick Ba at Senegal’s Cheikh Anta Diop University.
According to Ba, Trump never established a “specific strategy” towards Africa, making him less popular than his predecessors Barack Obama and George W Bush.
“(Trump) never set foot on the continent,” he added, recalling that the president had even sacked former secretary of state Rex Tillerson during his first trip to Africa in 2018.
— AFP