Yellen says Africa to shape world economy as US reengages

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen He watched Ford assemble cars and pickup trucks at a South African plant on Thursday, citing an example of cooperation between Washington and Africa as he launched a major effort by the Biden administration to re-engage with the continent of 1.3 billion people. Financial capability.

“The United States’ strategy toward Africa is centered around the simple recognition that Africa will shape the future of the global economy,” Yellen said at the Ford plant in the Silverton suburb of the South African capital, Pretoria.

“We know that a developing Africa is in the interest of the United States. A developing Africa means a bigger market for our goods and services. It means more investment opportunities for our businesses, like this Ford plant, which creates jobs in Africa and customers for American businesses.

Yellen, 76, grinning broadly, at one point got behind the wheel of the shiny new vehicle and gripped the steering wheel firmly with both hands.

Yellen is nearing the end of a three-country tour of Africa that began in Senegal Also taken on the west coast of the continent and in Zambia. Their visit marks the beginning of the Biden administration’s efforts to rebuild ties with Africa China’s economic presence on the world’s second-largest continent is rapidly increasing, and Russia’s military and diplomatic bases in parts of it.

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South Africa, Africa’s most developed economy and key to the US plan, has deep ties to both Russia and China and raised concerns at the White House last week when it announced it would host Russian and Chinese warships next month. and participate in joint naval exercises with them on its east coast. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov paid an official visit to South Africa Monday, a day before Yellen touched down.

Yellen avoided mentioning the naval exercises or South Africa’s neutral stance on the war in Ukraine during her trip. And a decision not to side with the West in condemning Russia. He said that Russia’s aggression has exacerbated some of Africa’s problems.

“Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine has driven up energy prices and exacerbated food insecurity,” he said.

Africa is the world’s largest single trade region by number of countries. It has a young population, a growing middle class and is expected to house a quarter of the world’s population by 2050.

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It has a myriad of problems, and Yellen focused on one of them during her talks with South African Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana on Thursday morning. The talks dealt in part, Yellen said, with South Africa’s transition from heavy reliance on coal to greener energy sources.

South Africa relies on coal-fired plants to generate 80% of its electricity. Coal plants are huge polluters and have proved unable to meet the needs of the country. South Africa is currently mired in a power crisis. Businesses and homes and its 60 million people are hit by scheduled rolling blackouts of up to 10 hours a day due to diesel shortages and outages at the state-owned electricity supplier’s aging coal plants.

South Africa plans to reduce its reliance on coal to 59% of its electricity generation by 2030 and aims to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050. The US and other Western countries have committed to help by pledging an $8.5 billion loan to fund South Africa’s energy transition.

“South Africa is the first country to have just the Energy Transition Partnership that the United States is proud to commit to as a partner,” Yellen said. “This partnership represents South Africa’s bold first step towards expanding electricity access and reliability and creating a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy.”

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Yellen’s intention to promote American investment and ties comes as it has overtaken the US in foreign direct investment in Africa. Trade between Africa and China will reach $254 billion in 2021, an increase of nearly 35%.

Yellen’s trip kick-started US efforts to recover lost ground, but the US ambassador to the United NationsLinda Thomas-Greenfield is also on a trip to Africa, and President Joe Biden has said he intends to visit this year, as does Vice President Kamala Harris.

The Biden administration’s plans were largely laid out at the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington. In December, US Deputy Commerce Secretary Dan Graves said, “We’ve taken our eye off the ball (in Africa) so to speak, and US investors and companies are going to have to play catch-up.”

Ahead of his meeting with Yellen on Thursday, Godongwana said the US still ranks among South Africa’s top trading partners.

“I hope it continues,” he said.


Gerald Imray reports from Cape Town.


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