While US President Joe Biden has brought relief to ordinary Africans by lifting the harmful travel ban affecting Muslim and African countries, experts on the continent are skeptical over whether he will entirely overturn the approach taken by the Trump administration.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Iqbal Jassat, an executive at the Johannesburg-based Media Review Network (MRN), said in the wake of Biden administration’s goal to reassert America’s superiority in global affairs, there is little room left for South Africa and other developing countries to maneuver.
Sultan Kakuba, a political scientist at Kyambogo University in Uganda’s capital Kampala, said African leaders may find relief at the more predictable policies of Biden, as they found it difficult to adjust to Trump’s mercurial moves
Jassat said the balance of bilateral trade with South Africa is heavily tilted towards the US, pointing to Biden’s background as vice president for eight years under Barack Obama.
“Biden was part of the Obama administration, during which political and economic issues were always slanted in favor of the US,” he said.
Kakuba said while he is excited at Biden taking over, he is skeptical whether this will mean friendlier policies towards Africa which benefit people directly.
“Looking at America’s foreign policy, you can’t take it for granted,” Kakuba told Anadolu Agency. “America’s interest comes first when relating with other countries.”
He downplayed expectations that with Biden as president, Africa will automatically benefit. “As long as the US is not meeting its national interests, then don’t expect any good relations. So if you’re willing to promote US interests, they will work with you,” he said.
He noted, however, that the new US administration has brought some relief to ordinary Africans who were finding it difficult to travel to the US after Trump introduced many visa restrictions including travel bans for some Muslim countries.
End of travel ban welcome
“Although much remains to be done, this is an important and necessary step reversing the Trump administration’s abusive policies,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement on the end of the travel ban.
Kakuba also said he hopes the resurgence in racism seen in the Trump era may get checked by the Biden.
He said that Trump’s rhetoric had led to the deaths of many Blacks at the hands of white police officers. He said for this reason, Black Americans and Africans, in general, should celebrate and expect that the new administration may address this issue.
Jassat said his group the Media Review Network is skeptical over whether despite all the hype generated by the Biden administration about democracy, it will provide a level playing field in the UN Security Council.
More representative UN Security Council
South Africa has advocated comprehensive reform of the UN Security Council, calling for expanding the number of permanent and non-permanent category seats from 15 to 26.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, too, has long pushed for larger and more inclusive representation at the Security Council, under the slogan “The world is bigger than five,” referring to its five permanent members.
In his address last fall to the UN General Assembly (UNGA), South African President Cyril Ramaphosa urged the assembly to increase the representation of African countries on the Security Council.
Jassat said an equally important consideration for South Africa is whether the devastating effects of the illegal war on terror will be acknowledged as a serious violation of civil rights.
“Rendition, torture, incarceration, etc. cannot be allowed to continue, and unless the Biden administration expunges these obnoxious laws, we remain skeptical,” he said.
By Hassan Isilow in Johannesburg