With Joe Biden elected as new US president and to be installed to the office in January, are relations with Africa bound to be full-blooded again after a lacklustre four years under Donald Trump?The emergence of Donald Trump as president in 2016 led to sometimes cold ties between Washington and much of Africa.
Through his infamous “America First” mantra Trump had made no secret of his position that Africa constitutes the least of his priorities.
No American president since Ronald Reagan in the 1980s had completed his term in office without a sojourn to Africa.
Trump is the latest exception to this rule, underlining what Africans believe was his lack of serious interest in Africa.
“Donald Trump has total disregard for Africa, he hasn’t travelled here and it if he was re-elected I doubt he’d visit the continent. He figures this isn’t worth his attention”, says international relations lecturer at Witwatersrand University, Professor John Stremlau in October.
The Trump White House had cut funding to health sectors in Africa while trade activities with the continent under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act had been on the wane.
AGOA was introduced in 2000 for products from deserving African countries to be given duty free access to the US market.
It was therefore telling that African leaders are queuing up to felicitate his rival Biden despite him disputing the outcome of last week’s presidential election.
It is the conviction of many in Africa that Biden will borrow a leaf from his former boss Barack Obama whose connection with the continent went beyond his ancestral home in Kenya.
Being a former vice president, he will almost certainly use the Obama administration’s template on relations with Africa.
During his campaign Biden had spared a few words for Africa, promising to revitalise relations with the continent of over 1.2 billion people.
Under him Washington will give the continent a little more attention, from the perspective of leaders on the continent such as Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana.
Those African leaders in their congratulatory messages to Trump made it clear that they expect Washington’s Africa policy to reflect a radical departure from Trump’s indifference towards a continent with some of the world’s fastest developing economies.
Biden is expected to undo a much-maligned travel ban introduced by the Trump administration barring citizens from some Muslim-majority countries like Nigeria, Sudan and Somalia.
Perhaps a US-Africa summit may be a good platform to rejig relations and Africans are already freely showing Biden the goodwill they had grudgingly given to Trump.