South Africa, Biden Administration, Angola discussed on The Lawfare Podcast
Let's turn to the big boy on the block in the southern part of the continent which of course south africa in your episode on south africa. You address both some of the long standing issues that have continued to linger from the united states constructive engagement policy into the nineteen eighties but then some of the more recent crises that involves particular leaders. And i'm wondering if you can contextualized for us where south africa is in. Just how much of a priority. The biden administration policy wise should be putting on the new leadership in south africa versus building in civil society or trying to tackle both south. Africa is an extraordinary part country in sub saharan africa. And in the world right. It's a member of the g twenty. It's important voice in the g. Seventy seven it's the second largest economy It's often on the un security council. It's often having key positions within the african union and the relationship as we described it and we talked to embassador michelle gavin who had been president obama's first senior director at the white house. The relationship is often what we say is cordial but not close. And there's a lot of prickliness about that relationship. So i'll make one point at the top and then i can talk about the current leaders. The point that i'm just adamant about is that you don't get to pick and choose which countries you like In you are going to deal with. Just because they're practically and i feel like for for the last couple of administrations because south africa is difficult. It has a very strong view of itself in it. you know isn't a big fan of whoever's the hegemonic power globally that we've kind of thrown our hands up with them and that's not a luxury that we have in india right. That's not a luxury that we allow ourselves in other major countries. So the first is that we've got to do. South africa's consequential country period. But the interesting thing is that we have a moment of an opportunity. Here south africa's last president. Jacob zuma was very corrupt. He's actually now just going to jail essentially contempt because he wouldn't appear at his trials around these corruptions and his successor. Sierra rama poza. I think is one of our best openings for a strong and more vibrant and were productive relationship serum poza is kind of the best of all worlds You know career. Anc guy of the party and he was in the labor movement's early in his career. He helped negotiate the end of apartheid and then he went into business so he started represents all of the different facets of a very complicated party which is the anc. He has been a vocal actor when it comes to cova nineteen and dealing with the crisis both in terms of his own country but making sure that other countries have debt relief or that they get their fair share of vaccine so he's incredibly important for the us. and i'm i'm hopeful that the biden administration will take him seriously in a way that i think previous administrations just found south africans to be too frustrating. We had i think a better partner cyril ramaphosa but even when things are gonna get a little sticky and they will. That's what happens that we need to persevere. Good news is president. Biden has talked to a rama poza once on the phone. In between his election and inauguration president biden's election nomination inauguration and then he had pull aside with him recently at the g seven. And that's you know. There are a few african leader so far that have gotten that kind of attention from the white house. I know that you're trying to to focus on the bilateral relationships between the us and each individual country. But i have to ask when it comes to some of the countries down in the southern part of the continent whether it is maybe our malawi but even east martini through botswana zimbabwe. How much do the policies of the united states toward these countries really rely on how south africa itself is evolving and relating to the us. I think they absolutely do. First of all let's talk about Economic investment most us companies in the ranges anywhere from six hundred eight hundred are based in south africa but have a regional new. So that's their headquarters in south africa. And they're launching pads to engage with the other countries that we just mentioned We look towards south africa. As the most important country in the regional body known as sadak the southern african development community to shape responses to whatever the crisis jurors south africa is right now playing a really critical role in the sadeq response to the insurgency in northern mozambique south africa. Your dominates many of their neighbors economies. Some of their currencies are tied to the rain. And which is south africa's main currency or the Depend on the technical know-how of south african nationals. So you have to look at south africa as south africa but then you have to think about its economic security and political influence in the southern african region. I but then again sort of across the continent and then again at the global level. Because if you're gonna want an african perspective on a global challenge right whether that's internet privacy or climate change or even thinking about strategic competition. The south african voices going to hold a lot of weight in. It's going to be representative. Maybe not every country in africa loves that but it will represent many african views. We've discussed before and certainly nothing. In recent months has changed this perhaps even accelerated it that one of the primary prizms through which us policy makers c. sub saharan africa in the countries within it is the prism of great power competition with russia and in particular with china. One of the fascinating episodes of forty nine that i listened to was the one on angola because one of the points that you in conversation with with nicole in your guests make is that angola could actually play a really interesting role here because the chinese influence in particular Russian as well. They manifest themselves differently in each country but in the end goal in case. You've got some inroads. There that could provide the us and actual opportunity to use angola almost as a go-between with russia in china concerning issues related to potential conflict. And at least tension in the continent talk through that a little bit. What could angola serve in this regard in. Is that a model for anyone else in africa. Yeah really interesting. Parallels here to both namibia into south africa. But here's a country where we were on the wrong side of history again. Supporting the rebel group unita Whereas the current government the mp l. a. had the backing of cuba. Russia took us very long time until the end of the cold war to have a strong relationship in fact radioman have an embassy. Cnn gola until the nineties and the relationship with the longtime leader He had been in power since nineteen. Seventy nine was again. Maybe not even cordial just cold. But the new president azul lawrence o. Came to power in two thousand seventeen kinda surprised everyone by a throwing. A many of the dos santos family into jail for corruption and saying very affirmatively that he wants a strong relationship with the united states and so far. He's doing many of the things that we would want to see in goal in terms of anti-corruption at least pledges of of diversifying the economy. Being a little stronger on on foreign policy engaging his predecessor hadn't and so the thing that i that i think is really interesting about angola is that because of its history with the russians with the cubans and china's a huge trading partner for them particularly terms of their oil sector. Is that when things get heated. What is the opportunity for a country like angola to serve as an interlocutor. A safe space. I guess it's one of my big things about africa policy. Dave is that africa policy. Seems to be just for. Africa policymakers right. And that's again something that i think is unique and unfair exceptional and productive. How do we integrate the foreign policy towards sub saharan africa in a global perspective. And when we're talking about great power competition. It shouldn't be just about constraining china's maligned influence on the continent. It should be thinking about how african countries can help us. lower the temperature address. Some of these challenges. I one of the things that i would like to see. African governments do. And maybe this won't be angola. Maybe this'll be a country like ghana. For example or kenya is not just say. We don't wanna choose but to say affirmatively. These are the things that we expect from our foreign partners. China otherwise and create a set of standards around transparency environmental protection and trade and investment lending. Then we can go and say we're gonna buy buy them beijing your move and so. This is the kind of ways that i think that african countries can play a critical role in great power competition and actually helped shape the battlespace so to speak building on that. Which countries in africa do you think are to put it bluntly underperforming internationally. And by that. I mean which countries do you think with the right motivation and the right encouragement from the biden administration could be playing a more productive role in international organizations with peacekeeping missions with global economic institutions. And in a sense starting to punch at their wait outside of the continent itself. Yeah great question. Let me talk about a little bit about Who is already punching above their weight. Or maybe just share with your your listeners. How many africans are now in key positions in global institutions. You may know that the head of the. who is dr ted dress and ethiopian. You may be aware that the head of the wto.