Yellen champions the new US-Africa policy with a trip to Senegal, Zambia and South Africa

FILE PHOTO: US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in Seoul, South Korea, July 19, 2022. Chung Sung-Jun/Pool via REUTERS
FILE PHOTO: US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in Seoul, South Korea, July 19, 2022. Chung Sung-Jun/Pool via REUTERS

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON, Jan 13 (Reuters) – U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will travel to Senegal, Zambia and South Africa over the next two weeks in a bid to deepen U.S. ties with Africa, which has long been the center of trade and Chinese investment.

Yellen, 76, is the first member of President Joe Biden’s government to undertake an extended trip to Africa, after he announced bilateral trade and investment deals worth more than $15 billion in December, saying the United States The United States is “fully committed” to the future of Africa.

His trip comes as Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang continues a tour of five African countries, the 33rd consecutive year that Africa has been the destination of the Chinese foreign official’s first overseas tour of the year.

Biden, his Vice President Kamala Harris, Commerce Representative Katherine Tai and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will also travel to Africa this year, as will Yellen’s deputy Wally Adeyemo.

Yellen will meet with government and private sector representatives in the three countries to discuss energy, food security, debt issues and infrastructure investments, according to senior US Treasury officials. In Senegal, Yellen will meet with the president of the African Union, Macky Sall.

The new US approach includes promising and delivering major investment and trade partnerships, not just humanitarian aid and security assistance, US officials said.

“We believe that growth in Africa will be a key driver of global growth for decades to come,” a senior US Treasury official told reporters. “American companies investing in Africa mean jobs and opportunities for a growing middle class, and new markets and customers for American companies.”

The economies of sub-Saharan Africa will grow by 3.7% in 2023, according to IMF forecasts, beating global estimates of 2.7%. The United Nations estimated last year that the population of many sub-Saharan African countries will double between 2022 and 2050.

China’s trade with Africa is about four times that of the United States. Beijing has become a major creditor by offering cheaper loans — often with opaque terms and collateral requirements — than Western banks. But some African countries, including Zambia, have resented Chinese loans and are looking for alternatives, experts say.

The goal of Yellen’s visit is to deepen the United States’ longstanding ties with African countries, and provide them with high-quality, sustainable investments that “do not impose unsustainable debt burdens on recipient countries,” the Treasury representative said. without offering specific details.

Yellen has criticized Beijing – currently the world’s largest creditor – for not moving quickly to restructure the debt of poor countries in Africa. This issue will be key in her visit to Zambia, according to the Treasury representative.

Yellen’s stay in Zambia will coincide with a visit by International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, although IMF sources said the trips were not planned at the same time.

Washington intends to offer African leaders more sustainable options than China, a senior US official told Reuters, especially in areas such as infrastructure, digital transformation and climate change.

Biden proposed in December to include the African Union in the Group of 20 major economies, to give African countries a bigger seat at the table. The only African country previously included was South Africa.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Heather Timmons and Gerry Doyle; Editing in Spanish by Darío Fernández)

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