When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch
eyes on the U.S.

The Unique Role Of African Americans In Building A New U.S.-Africa Alliance

Recent allegations by the U.S. ambassador to South Africa that the African nation gave ammunition and weapons to Russia in December 2022, amid Russia’s war on Ukraine, illustrate the complexity of U.S.-Africa relations.

Teenagers and American tourists in Cape Town.

A group of teenagers lead American tourists through a government-funded housing development in Capetown, South Africa.

© Dahleen Glanton via Zuma
Asafa Jalata

Even as South Africa investigates those claims, the Biden administration is trying to strengthen ties with the African Union, a continental member organization, and 49 of Africa’s 54 countries, including South Africa, on geopolitical and commercial issues.

The only African countries the U.S. is not courting are four that were suspended from the African Union, and Eritrea, a country with which the United States doesn’t have a formal relationship.

The U.S. is making this grand African play as it competes with China to influence the continent’s future. And while this particular U.S.-China contest is relatively new, U.S. involvement in Africa is not.

The way the U.S. has been involved on the continent, though, has changed over time, depending on the era, U.S. interests and a particular African nation’s needs. In 1822, for example, the U.S. began to send freeborn African Americans and emancipated former enslaved African Americans to Africa, where they settled the colony that would eventually become Liberia. That settlement was originally governed by white Americans.

After Liberia became a self-governing, Black republic in 1847, it relied heavily on U.S. financial assistance. By 1870, that assistance came by way of high-interest loans.

Decolonization and U.S. interest in Africa

U.S. involvement with other African states took root after various countries, formerly governed by colonial powers, entered into self-rule. American policy objectives on the continent centered around U.S. strategic interests and came in the form of military and economic aid.

The U.S., for example, established diplomatic relationships with Egypt in 1922, Sudan in 1956 and Ghana in 1957, after those countries gained independence from the United Kingdom.

After the the Cold War ended, the U.S. lacked clear policy objectives toward Africa.

Beginning in the late 1950s, when other African countries gained independence, the U.S. formed diplomatic and commercial ties with them as well and worked to reduce the Soviet Union’s influence on the continent. In 1961 and 1962, the U.S. persuaded West African countries to deny the Soviet Union commercial flyover and landing rights in their territories.

After the the Cold War ended, the U.S. lacked clear policy objectives toward Africa, and interaction between the superpower and the continent waned.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

United States Vice President Kamala Harris and President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa chat before holding discussions at the Vice President's Official Residence in Washington, DC

© Chris Kleponis - Pool via CNP

Renewed US interest in Africa

In the 21st century, the U.S. began to turn its attention back to Africa as a way of pushing its strategic interests and strengthening commercial and diplomatic ties with African countries.

In 2000, during the Clinton administration, Congress enacted the African Growth and Opportunity Act to open American markets to eligible African countries.

Then, in 2003, President George W. Bush launched the global health initiative, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, that has been the U.S.’s most significant action on the continent since its nearly 250-year enslavement of Africans - first as Colonial America, then the U.S. - from 1619 to 1865.

Known as PEPFAR, the initiative is credited with saving 21 million lives, mostly in Africa and the Caribbean.

More recently, the U.S. has held two U.S.-Africa Leaders Summits. President Barack Obama hosted the first one in 2014, and President Joe Biden held the second one in 2022. And, as part of the Biden administration’s Africa outreach, Vice President Kamala Harris visited Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia in March 2023 to discuss security and economic issues with leaders of those countries.

It’s not just about diplomacy

Yet, the relationships between the U.S. and African nations run deeper than government-to-government partnerships or aid.

As Biden said during the December 2022 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit dinner: “Our people lie at the heart of the deep and profound connection that forever binds Africa and the United States together. We remember the stolen men and women and children who were brought to our shores in chains, subjected to unimaginable cruelty. My nation’s original sin was that period.”

As the U.S. courts Africa broadly, African countries, such as Sierra Leone, Liberia and others, are courting African Americans, encouraging them to visit, set up homes and establish businesses and economic ties in their ancestral homeland. No country has made more of an effort than Ghana, which, for example, is making special accommodation for Americans who purchase land there.

Invitation to the motherland

In 2000, the Ghanaian Parliament passed a Citizenship Act, which grants the right of dual citizenship to people of Ghanaian descent. African Americans have been able to trace their ancestry to Ghana and other African countries because of genetic testing. And the Immigration Act, passed the same year, includes a “Right of Abode” that allows anyone in the African diaspora to travel to and from the country freely.

Ghanaian leaders have made it clear that they want African Americans to invest in the country.

In September 2018, Nana Akufo-Addo, president of Ghana, announced a campaign commemorating the 400-year anniversary of the first enslaved Africans brought to Jamestown, Virginia, with a goal of spurring African American business, investment and tourism in the West African nation. Ghana has long promised African Americans and other people in the African diaspora dual citizenship rights and business opportunities. Ghanaian leaders have made it clear that they want African Americans and others to invest in the country.

Since the Year of Return, at least 1,500 African Americans have received citizenship rights in Ghana, and some 5,000 African Americans have made Ghana their permanent home.

The Ghanaian government launched another campaign in 2020 to increase tourism and investment in the country by people in the African diaspora, as well as to deepen social ties between Ghanaians and the diaspora.

Following Ghana’s playbook, in 2021, Senegal worked with African American business leaders to celebrate its first “The Return.” Held on June 19 that year, the event was a historic Juneteenth initiative, modeled after the American holiday to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States and encourage African American investment in the country.

Akufo-Addo may have sparked a 21st century resurgence of trans-Atlantic African appeals to African Americans and other people in the African diaspora.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

How Russia's Wartime Manipulation Of Energy Prices Could Doom Its Economy

A complex compensation mechanism for fuel companies, currency devaluation, increased demand due to the war, logistics disruptions, and stuttering production growth have combined to trigger price rises and deepening shortages in the Russian energy market.

Photograph of Novatek's gravity-based structure platform for production of liquefied natural gas, floating on a body of water.

Russia, Murmansk Region - July 21, 2023: A view of Novatek's gravity-based structure platform for production of liquefied natural gas.

Ekaterina Mereminskaya

In Russia, reports of gasoline and diesel shortages have been making headlines in the country for several months, raising concerns about energy supply. The situation escalated in September when a major diesel shortage hit annexed Crimea. Even before that, farmers in the southern regions of Russia had raised concerns regarding fuel shortages for their combines.

“We’ll have to stop the harvest! It will be a total catastrophe!” agriculture minister Dmitry Patrushev had warned at the time. “We should temporarily halt the export of petroleum products now until we have stabilized the situation on the domestic market.”

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

As the crisis deepens, experts are highlighting the unintended consequences of government intervention in fuel pricing and distribution.

The Russian government has long sought to control the prices of essential commodities, including gasoline and diesel. These commodities are considered "signalling products", according to Sergei Vakulenko, an oil and gas expert and fellow at the Carnegie Endowment. Entrepreneurs often interpret rising gasoline prices as a signal to adjust their pricing strategies, reasoning that if even gasoline, a staple, is becoming more expensive, they too should raise their prices.

The specter of the 2018 fuel crisis, where gasoline prices in Russia surged at twice the rate of other commodities, haunts the authorities. As a result, they implemented a mechanism to control these prices and ensure a steady supply. Known as the "fuel damper," this mechanism seeks to balance the profitability of selling fuel in both domestic and foreign markets.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest