ANALYSIS | A Biden administration favours South Africa

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Joe Biden
Joe Biden
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  • Joe Biden's victory in the US election would favour South Africa and its relationship to the global power house.
  • Analysts believe that Africa, and in particular South Africa, can look forward to better relations with the US under the Biden administration, as his predecessor Donald Trump had no desire in strengthening ties in Africa.
  • While multiple opportunities exist for South Africa under the Biden administration, the president elect will first focus on domestic issues back home such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

With Joe Biden clinching the election to become the US’s 46th president, South Africa can look forward to better relations, but the new president elect first needs to place his focus on home.

Biden, who won the US elections on the democratic ticket, will be a lot friendlier to the African continent than his predecessor Donald Trump, who during his tenure as president put Africa on the backburner with his nationalist approach.

This, according to a number of political commentators and analysts.

Political analyst Daniel Silke told News24 that the Trump administration showed little excitement in broadening ties in Africa and that there was no desire to engage with South Africa.

The Biden administration, however, will most likely extend the hand of cooperation and in relation to trade policy there will be a greater desire to incorporate developing countries as opposed to the domestic focus that Trump adopted.

READ | Democrat Joe Biden elected 46th US president, defeating Republican Donald Trump - CNN

Silke did caution that Biden would still find it difficult to forge trade policies without the backing of the Senate or Congress, so his hands may very well be tied.

In addition, South Africa should not expect a host of changes in the relationship in the short term, as Biden would have to focus on domestic issues affecting the US including Covid-19 and the financial devastation caused.  

Francis Kornegay, a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Global Dialogue, said South Africa would undoubtedly have a better relationship with Biden in the driving seat as opposed to the Trump administration.

“With the Trump administration, the SA relationship with the US, has been sort of on the fringe,” Kornegay said.

“Had he been re-elected things would have been worse. I think with Biden, he will be bringing in a whole new foreign policy and Africa policies, many of which will be very favourable for South Africa.”

“South Africa will have in a Biden administration, a US administration you can work with without having to feel that you better watch out for the kind of unpredictability and hostility you had from Trump,” he added.

Kornegay did say that it would be up to South Africa to be a little more proactive with the US and that the country would have to align itself.

“If South Africa fails to come up with a real no aligned approach to relations with the US at a time where you now have an administration in Washington that you can work with, I think South Africa will be shooting itself in the foot.”

“Reaching out to the Biden administration has to happen soon, I don’t think it can wait until January.”

READ | Trumpism and MAGA politics: A warning from the US to SA

Kornegay added that if South Africa becomes more open in dealing with the US, it will serve its economic interest, which can help in navigating the country out of its precarious financial position.

This would happen by way of foreign investment.

Bob Wekesa from the African Centre for the Study of the US also echoed the idea that investment from the US can be strengthened with good relations under the Biden administration.

He was also of the opinion that investment would be on the cards, but that any sort of aid or bail outs would not be on offer as the US needs to focus on its own economy following Covid-19.

- Compiled by Alex Mitchley 

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