By HOMELAND MEDIA TEAM
After US President Joe Biden dangled $55 billion in spending to bolster ties with Africa, his Ugandan counterpart was quick to outline four areas that will be positioned to make the most of the rejigged foreign policy.
On the fringes of the US-Africa Leaders Summit, which ended last Thursday with a discussion around food security at the Washington Convention Center, President Museveni welcomed the series of economic initiatives unveiled. Mr. Museveni made clear Uganda’s intention to align “investments, trade, tourism, and security cooperation” with the Biden administration’s for Africa.
Mr. Museveni added that if Uganda can collaborate with others, “it will make the work [of building the country’s infrastructure] much easier.”
Part of, if not most, of the infrastructure the Ugandan president was referring to is propped by China’s Belt Road Initiative, with observers saying President Biden dangled in Washington was tailored at landing a decisive blow in a geopolitical contest.
Unlike President George W. Bush’s Pepfar (the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief) and President Barack Obama’s Power Africa that set out to combat HIV/Aids and electrify tens of millions of homes, President Biden’s economic initiatives have been described as cookie-cutter in some quarters.
The Biden administration also signed an MoU to support the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which African leaders this week made an impassioned plea for.
Started in 2019, the AfCFTA has set itself an ambitious target of increasing intra-Africa trade by one-quarter to translate into $70 billion by 2040. It is also hoped that 30 million people will have been lifted out of poverty by then.
Mr. Museveni underscored the importance of blurring the continent’s colonial-era borders, adding that the interconnectedness of Africa is what “we have been for a long time actually [talking], even under what they call NEPAD [New Partnership for African Development] within Africa.”
President Biden’s pledges to bolster Africa’s future include $350 million investment to prop a digital economy initiative and $800 million in new contracts for Cisco Systems and Cybastion “to protect African countries from cyberthreats.”
President Museveni said while Uganda has “got a strong army … [and] we don’t need anybody to help us … The only area where we need cooperation is beyond the borders where we don’t have authority.”
Mr. Museveni stressed the importance of investing in infrastructure projects such as “a railway system from East Africa to [DR Congo.”
The mineral-rich country came up for discussion during the summit’s plethora of forums. Ultimately, the Biden administration declared its unequivocal support for an initiative to use minerals excavated from its earth soil to make batteries for electric vehicles in Zambian factories.
The electronics industry largely depends on minerals such as coltan, cobalt, tungsten, wolfram, cassiterite, gold, and diamonds, which lie in abundance in the restive eastern Congo. Belligerents partly finance their activities from the sale of gold, wolframite, coltan, and cassiterite.
The US commitments this week underline the fact that Kinshasa will figure heavily in the Fourth Industrial Revolution conversation headlined by artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, 3D printing, genetic engineering, quantum computing, and other technologies.
Congo’s expansive minerals portfolio will essentially fuel the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The cobalt that it produces at an unprecedented scale is used in the manufacture of batteries. Its copper reserves—eclipsed worldwide by only half a dozen countries—and a little more than 130m tonnes of Lithium deposits will doubtless be used to produce key components in electric cars, computers, and renewable energy sources.
President Biden’s pledges to bolster Africa’s future include a $350 million investment to prop a digital economy initiative and $800 million in new contracts for Cisco Systems and Cybastion “to protect African countries from cyberthreats.”