Incoming President Biden. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
To Incoming-President Biden,
I am a lifelong Pan-African activist who believes that change is possible and has thoughts for the Biden administration to consider as its African policy is formulated.
The future is mostly for the young and although African civilization and culture is old, the population of the continent is overwhelmingly under the age of 30 years old. We should acknowledge this as former President Obama did with the Mandela Washington Fellowship, that empowers young leaders who are emerging from Africa.
Incoming-President Biden, having a new American policy that embraces and supports, the education and health of the people while also embracing and supporting businesses that can help to build the infrastructure and therefore facilitate development would be a win-win situation for Africa and the United States. The USA respecting the sovereignty of individual states while working with African nations to solve their problems is a tremendous opportunity to showcase American world leadership and to maintain superpower status in a changing world.
Much needs to change regarding American foreign policy toward Africa. USA positions on trade deals, military bases, and its diplomatic positions across the continent are often at odds with what is best for most of the people. Africa is a huge, complex continent and an essay could be written about each of the 54 nation states. I suggest that your administration focus on what I consider the Big Four: Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. Ethiopia is the seat of the African Union, East Africa’s door to the interior, and it is the second most populous country on the continent, and it’s the most industrialized in the region. Although powerful, three of the above nations have military conflict within their national borders. Encouraging peace and de-escalation of conflicts should be a key part of your administration’s agenda for Africa. The big four and the entire continent should be engaged.
Policy toward Liberia, because of its historical ties to the USA, and Congo due to its size and central location, should be prioritized. Attention is needed immediately regarding Uganda. Gen. Yoweri Museveni has been in power for 34 years and seems to want to stay for life. His American-trained and armed police forces are brutalizing the people. These forces are attempting to scare them out of voting for a candidate of their choice. A leading opposition candidate, Bobi Wine, whom I met when he came to the United States two years ago has been assaulted numerous times by Museveni’s U.S.-trained forces. I believe your incoming administration should take a strong position in favor of free, fair, and credible elections before the Jan. 14, 2021 vote.
Making a speech recognizing Africa’s importance and showing respect for the continent—in light of President Trump’s “shithole countries” comment could help change the perception and jumpstart win-win possibilities. Even better, visiting Africa first, instead of Saudi Arabia, would be a great way to continue to thank the African-American community for the support given to you that facilitated your election to be the 46th president of the United States.
You can be a great leader not just by changing domestic policy to create a more equitable society, but also by transforming foreign policy and embracing a Pro-African policy as part of a new way forward.
Jeffery Kazembe Batts, Pro African Purpose
IG: @kazbatts Twitter: @kazembebatts