TACOMA, Washington — Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Rep. Karen Bass, D-Ca., introduced H.Res.251 in March of 2021. This resolution reaffirms and recognizes the importance of relations between the United States and African countries. A total of 25 Democratic representatives currently co-sponsor H.Res.251 though it has not yet passed the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Improving U.S.-Africa relations keeps the U.S. connected to one of the fastest-growing regions in the world. If H.Res.251 successfully signals that making Africa a political and economic priority to the American government is beneficial, both sides could gain from stronger partnerships in fighting the barriers to development in Africa.
Representative Karen Bass
Bass emphasized the mutual benefits of U.S.-Africa relations in her press release on H.Res.251. She recognized Africa as a young, urbanizing and economically growing region where the U.S. has opportunities to strengthen trade and regional security. Her resolution aims to increase diplomatic engagement with the area. It also seeks to further involve the U.S. in all levels of African society from government leadership to local industries.
This resolution has the potential to sway American development strategies in Africa to partner with more local actors. Such change could then help to better target large-scale issues of poverty and underdevelopment. Additional resources the U.S. government dedicates to Africa could further enable partnerships that address these issues.
Recent History of U.S.-Africa Relations
Africa contains numerous areas of strategic interest for the United States, but American engagement in the region lags behind others. The U.S. Department of Defense recognizes that “13 of the 25 fastest growing economies of the world” are in Africa. However, the state of some of the continent’s political systems can open the door to violent extremism. By partnering more deeply with African countries, the U.S. government has the opportunity to engage with areas of high economic growth while fighting some of the root causes of poverty in one of the most affected regions in the world.
Despite the strategic advantages of engagement, the U.S. government’s history of prioritizing other regions allowed other world powers to become dominant partners in African countries. China, in particular, became the largest trade and lending partner on the continent after 2009. Despite China’s growing influence, surveys on citizens of African countries could suggest America is still an appealing partner when compared with other nations.
Past U.S.-cooperation brought about successful efforts like the African Growth and Opportunity Act and the President’s Malaria Initiative. One possible current path, however, involves the fact that many African countries hold substantial debt to China. The U.S. government has the opportunity to help African countries avoid economic crises by improving the management and regulation of these debts within regional governments.
H.Res.251 and Investing in Africa
The strategy for deepening engagements with Africa laid out by H.Res.251 and supported by policy experts is to increase diplomacy and investing in local areas. While the goal of supporting democracy and advancing economic gains in Africa is longstanding in American policy, implementing these goals often relied on programs that reacted to specific issues in the past rather than targeting broad structural concerns.
This resolution promotes contemporary solutions. Such solutions include maintaining multilateral institutions in Africa to engage with and dedicating more specific diplomatic efforts to the region. Furthering ties with local entities in Africa and partnering with local private enterprises are also priorities that can positively impact U.S.-Africa relations.
H.Res.251 affirms a stronger partnership between the U.S. and African nations, but the specific philosophies the resolution promotes have the potential to strengthen U.S.-Africa relations well into the long term. Rapid growth and strategic importance make Africa an ideal region for U.S. engagement. Although in recent years, the United States has lagged behind other powers in promoting relations with Africa, this resolution could pave the path for the U.S. government to reverse this trend.
– Viola Chow