Ramaphosa meets Biden

Phumlani M. Majozi writes on what's behind the US' renewed interest in South Africa

The meetings of heads of states are usually closely watched by the observers of international affairs. These meetings always have the potential to transform the history of the nations those heads of states represent. The decisions taken in these meetings can affect people’s lives, directly or indirectly. 

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa met the United States (US) President Joe Biden at the White House in Washington D.C. this week. The meeting took place a month after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken toured Africa, including South Africa where he presented America's new US-Africa strategy.

The US is clearly concerned about the inroads that have been made by Russia and China in Africa. And the world's superpower wants to counter these two countries in the African continent.

China’s influence in Africa has grown significantly over the past decades. Africa's biggest trading partner is now China. Africa’s biggest creditor, is China too.

Russia on the other hand has penetrated Africa with its mercenaries. Sergey Lavrov, Russia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, toured Africa last July. The aim of Lavrov’s trip was to garner support for Russia as it is engaged in a war with Ukraine. A war that began in February this year.

America’s goal is to forge more, stronger alliances in Africa, as it enters the Cold War II era with China, and is battling Russia over Ukraine.

Trade, climate change, stronger ties between South Africa and the US, the Ukraine-Russia war, are amongst the issues that Biden and Ramaphosa discussed.

South Africa's government has chosen to be neutral on the Russia-Ukraine war, a stance that has upset many people in South Africa and in other countries.

Winning South Africa on the Ukraine-Russia war matter must have been difficult for Joe Biden. It does not look like South Africa can be convinced on its stance on the war. 

When Blinken was in South Africa, South Africa's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Naledi Pandor, was crystal clear that South Africa did not want to be bullied by superpowers.

Even at the United Nations (UN), South Africa has tended to not vote with the USA on UN resolutions. So, the chances are slim that the US will get South Africa to be an ally anytime soon. It will never happen under the governance of the African National Congress (ANC).

Joe Biden's invitation of Ramaphosa to the White House confirms how serious the US is with its Africa strategy. It is reported that the US will hold a US-Africa summit later this year, which will help the US reinforce its relationship with Africa. 

As the US counters China now and in the next decades, South Africa must be strategic and position itself in the middle of both countries. We cannot afford to pick sides in the conflicts of global superpowers, because we must trade with all of them.

How we deal with the world is something we have control of and can improve. Ramaphosa’s trip to Washington came at a vital time. A stronger engagement between South Africa and the US is needed. 

South Africa's economy remains the most advanced in the African continent. Our leadership needs to make use of that advantage to have a better relationship with the US. We must cooperate wherever we can, and where necessary, on matters that affect our countries.

Phumlani M. Majozi is a banking foreign exchange and treasury business analyst, a non-executive director, and senior fellow at African Liberty. His website is phumlanimajozi.com. Follow him on Twitter: @PhumlaniMMajozi.