The United States is seeking a "true partnership" with Africa and not trying to "outdo" other world powers in vying for influence on the continent, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said.
Blinken arrived in South Africa for an official visit on Sunday during a three-nation African trip which follows hot on the heels of an extensive tour of the continent by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Speaking in the South African capital Pretoria on Monday, Blinken said the United States did not see the region as the "latest playing field in a competition between great powers".
"That is fundamentally not how we see it. It's not how we will advance our engagement here," Blinken told a press briefing, speaking alongside his local counterpart Naledi Pandor.
"Our commitment to a stronger partnership with Africa is not about trying to outdo anyone else."
New Africa strategy
For his first stop, the US top diplomat chose South Africa, a leader in the developing world which has remained neutral in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Pretoria has refused to join Western calls to condemn Moscow, which had opposed apartheid before the end of white-minority rule in 1994.
His comments came ahead of a policy announcement on the US government's new Africa strategy, which Blinken is expected to lay out in a speech at the University of Pretoria later on Monday.
Officials in President Joe Biden's administration told reporters that the new "US Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa" will actively engage the region's leaders on issues from climate change to pandemic recovery to food insecurity, while thinking "more holistically" about military engagement on the continent.
"What we seek most of all is a true partnership between the United States and Africa. We don't want an imbalanced or transactional relationship," Blinken said.
Vulnerable countries in Africa and elsewhere in the world have been hard hit by the fallout from the Ukraine war that has sent prices of fuel and food soaring.
Powerhouse South Africa belongs to a group of emerging economies called BRICS.
In June, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged BRICS countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - to cooperate in the face of "selfish actions" from the West.