Deeper ties on Yellen’s mind as US begins year of African engagement

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US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will kick off a year of visits by top US officials to Africa on Friday with a firm pledge of partnership and investment, eyeing the massive economic opportunities created by Africa’s demographic boom.

In a speech to be delivered in Dakar on Friday, Yellen maps out a vision for strengthening US-African ties after decades in which America’s strategic rival China dominated lending and investment across the continent.

Yellen’s three-country trip – with other stops planned in Zambia and South Africa comes after a lengthy meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in Zurich on Tuesday, where both sides underscored the need for greater coordination on global challenges such as climate change and food security.

US officials insist increased engagement by President Joe Biden and US officials aims to deepen existing ties with Africa, but they are also pitching what they say is a more sustainable alternative to China’s collateralized loans and non-market approach.

For their part, African nations say they are keen for increased investment and resources, at a time when tightening financial conditions and the appreciating US dollar have raised the cost of servicing existing debt, and fiscal spending has been stretched by COVID and higher inflation.