US committment to deepening ties with South Africa affirmed under new administration

American foreign policy grew frigid following South African support for Russia and Hamas, but the US appears to have high hopes for the DA's role in the coalition





Jul 3, 2024

US committment to deepening ties with South Africa affirmed under new administration

This morning, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that he and US President Joe Biden have reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening the unique relationship between their countries. This declaration follows from a phone call on Tuesday, 2 July 2024, where President Biden congratulated President Ramaphosa on his recent election victory and the successful formation of a government of national unity.

In the discussion, President Biden assured President Ramaphosa that the United States would closely collaborate with South Africa's Seventh Administration on critical areas such as economic growth, job creation, social development, and climate change. Additionally, Biden pledged support for South Africa's upcoming presidency of the G20 in 2025 and confirmed his intention to visit South Africa to participate in the G20 meetings.

President Ramaphosa expressed his gratitude for President Biden's commitment and extended an invitation for a State Visit to South Africa, with dates to be confirmed by diplomatic teams.

The conversation also touched on the broader context of US-Africa relations. Last year, President Biden hosted the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit, emphasizing Africa's significant role in the future global economy. By 2050, Africa's population is projected to rise to over 2.5 billion, creating vast opportunities that require substantial investment in the continent's human resources.

US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen's visit to South Africa last year underscored the US Treasury's commitment to a prosperous Africa, highlighting deeper ties not only between South Africa and the US but also between their respective continents.

Economic growth in Africa is seen as beneficial to United States interests in maintaining a balance of trade influence with China, whom the South African ruling party is very close with.

Through the Prosper Africa initiative, the US aims to connect American and African businesses with new opportunities, having facilitated over 1,200 deals across 49 African countries, including more than 100 in South Africa. Notably, one deal supported a $652 million investment in Aspen Pharmacare to enhance vaccine production in Africa.

Infrastructure and energy are pivotal to business success, and the US is committed to addressing these needs. President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law aims to modernize American infrastructure, and the Inflation Reduction Act seeks to advance new technologies and lower energy prices globally. These efforts extend to Africa through the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, aiming to mobilize $600 billion for quality infrastructure projects by 2027.

Additionally, the Just Energy Transition Partnership is providing South Africa with $9.3 billion and technical assistance to encourage South Africa to decommission most of its coal-fired power plants, though this has received criticism after Andre de Ruyter’s implementation of this policy saw the worst loadshedding schedule to date.

Central to this relationship is the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), which has made South Africa America’s largest trading partner in Africa, with over $20 billion in two-way trade. More than 600 American businesses operate in South Africa, including significant investments from companies like Ford, General Electric, and Visa.

South Africa is navigating a complex diplomatic landscape, balancing its relations with the United States while maintaining ties with nations like Russia, Iran, and China. But tensions peaked as the US House Foreign Affairs Committee passed the US-South Africa Bilateral Relations Review Bill (US-SA Bill), requiring a comprehensive review of ties with South Africa.

During the bill's debate, South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor begged American officials to reconsider punitive measures against her country for their close relations with Russia.

The bill cited concerns over South Africa's Eastward-facing foreign policy, which is perceived to favour China, Russia, and Hamas, potentially undermining US security interests. Specific issues include South Africa's support for the Russian cargo ship Lady R and joint naval exercises with Russia and China.

But relations have appeared to improve following South Africa's pivot to a more West-friendly stance on Ukraine, where they joined the peace negotiations team. However, tensions escalated again after South Africa filed charges of genocide against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) following the Hamas attacks on Israel in October 2023.

The new declaration of intent signals confidence in the new coalition government, though it remains to be seen whether the DA, close conformists with American foreign interests in South Africa, will be able to wield any influence.

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