US ambassador to UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the long-planned trip is not part of global competition with either of America’s rivals, but it is part of a series of high-level US engagements.
The US ambassador to the United Nations is heading to Africa, saying she will focus on how the United State can help Uganda, Ghana and Cape Verde deal with the food crisis that has hit the continent particularly hard — not to compete with China and Russia.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the long-planned trip is not part of global competition with either of America’s rivals, but it is part of a series of high-level US engagements “that aim to affirm and strengthen our partnerships and relationships with African leaders and peoples.”
Her trip from August 4-7 will be followed immediately by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visits to South Africa, Congo and Rwanda from August 7-11.
It also comes on the heels of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit last week to Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda and the Republic of Congo where he accused the US and European countries of driving up food prices.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi began 2022 with a four-day visit to Eritrea, Kenya and the Comoros, keeping a 32-year tradition that the country’s top diplomat make his first trip of the year to Africa.
“We’re not catching up. They are catching up,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “We have been engaging with this continent for decades, and even my own career is very much evidence of that.”
Thomas-Greenfield first went to Africa as a student in the 1970s, and in her career as a US diplomat she rose to be assistant secretary of state for African affairs from 2013 to 2017.
She said high energy prices, climate change, Covid-19 and increasing conflict have pushed millions of Africans “to the brink,” and that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offensive against Ukraine on February 24 has added to the crisis.
The US ambassador said the three countries she is visiting — Uganda first followed by Ghana and Cape Verde — all face serious food security situations because of the significant rise in the cost of food and energy.
But she said Ghana has been a leader in dealing with it and she will be visiting a market, meeting farmers and going to a grain factory in the country “to see how we can help them improve on their production.”
In an interview and at a news conference ahead of her three-nation visit, Thomas-Greenfield said her trip happens to come on the heels of Lavrov’s visit.
As for China, while its trade with Africa last year was dramatically higher than US trade, Thomas-Greenfield said “if you look at our figures, and how far back our engagement has been with the Africans, then we really are far above those numbers.”
“As you look at what China’s doing in Africa, you need to look at the debt trap that African countries, many of them, have faced because of those relationships with China,” she said.
China has become one of the biggest lenders to developing countries through its Belt and Road initiative to expand trade by building ports, railways and other infrastructure across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
Thomas-Greenfield said the US is “not telling African countries they can’t engage with China.”
“What we are engaged in is vision for economic development that promotes democracy and that promotes respect for human rights and transparency and strengthening the capacity for Africans to create jobs for their own citizens,” she said. “We respect the ability of countries to decide for themselves whether they want to partner with China or not.”