PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen watched Ford automobiles and pickup trucks getting assembled at a plant in South Africa on Thursday, citing it as an instance of cooperation amongst Washington and Africa as she starts the Biden administration’s massive push to reengage with a continent that has 1.three billion men and women and an abundance of financial prospective.

“The United States’ approach towards Africa is centered about a easy recognition that Africa will shape the future of the international economy,” Yellen stated at the Ford plant in the suburb of Silverton in the South African capital, Pretoria.

“We know that a thriving Africa is in the interest of the United States. A thriving Africa implies a huge industry for our goods and solutions. It implies additional investment possibilities for our companies like this Ford plant, which can make jobs in Africa and consumers for American companies.”

The 76-year-old Yellen, smiling broadly, got behind the wheel of one particular of the shining new automobiles at one particular point, and gripped the steering wheel firmly with each hands.

Yellen is nearing the finish of a 3-nation tour of Africa that started in Senegal on the continent’s west coast and also took in Zambia. Her go to is the commence of the Biden administration’s efforts to rebuild ties with Africa in the light of China’s quickly escalating financial presence on the world’s second-biggest continent, and Russia’s military and diplomatic foothold in components of it.

South Africa, Africa’s most created economy and pivotal to the U.S. strategy, has deep ties with each Russia and China, and raised concern at the White Property when it announced final week it would host Russian and Chinese warships subsequent month and take component in joint naval drills with them off its east coast. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov produced an official go to to South Africa on Monday, a day just before Yellen touched down.

Yellen has avoided mentioning the naval drills throughout her trip, or South Africa’s neutral stance more than the war in Ukraine and selection not to side with the West in condemning Russia. She did say Russia’s invasion is to blame for escalating some of Africa’s difficulties.

“Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine has raised power costs and exacerbated meals insecurity,” she stated.

Africa is the world’s biggest single trade region by quantity of nations. It has a young population, a burgeoning middle class and is anticipated to be household to one particular quarter of the world’s population by 2050.

It also has a myriad of difficulties, and Yellen focused on one particular of them earlier Thursday when she held morning talks with South African Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana. The talks partly dealt, Yellen stated, with transitioning South Africa from its heavy reliance on coal to greener power sources.

South Africa relies on coal-fired plants to produce about 80% of its electrical energy. As properly as getting a large polluter, the coal plants have proved unable to meet the country’s requirements. South Africa is presently embroiled in an electrical energy crisis, with scheduled rolling blackouts hitting companies and households and its 60 million men and women for up to ten hours a day since of diesel shortages and breakdowns at the state-owned electrical energy provider’s aging coal plants.

South Africa plans to cut down its reliance on coal to 59% of its electrical energy production by 2030 and is targeting zero carbon emissions by 2050. The U.S. and other Western nations have committed to aid, pledging $eight.five billion in loans to fund South Africa’s power transition.

“South Africa is the 1st nation with a just power transition partnership to which the United States was proud to commit as a companion,” Yellen stated. “This partnership represents South Africa’s bold 1st step towards expanding electrical energy access and reliability and generating a low-carbon and climate-resistant economy.”

Yellen’s mission to market American investment and ties comes in the face of China overtaking the U.S. in foreign direct investment in Africa. Trade amongst Africa and China surged to $254 billion in 2021, up about 35%.

Yellen’s trip kicked off U.S. efforts to recover lost ground, though the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, is also on a tour to Africa, and President Joe Biden has stated he intends to go to this year, as does Vice President Kamala Harris.

The Biden administration’s plans have been largely laid out at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington in December, when U.S. Deputy Commerce Secretary Don Graves stated, “We took our eye off the ball so to speak (in Africa), and U.S. investors and firms are obtaining to play catch-up.”

Just before his meeting with Yellen on Thursday, Godongwana stated that the U.S. nevertheless ranks amongst South Africa’s major trading partners.

“My hope is that this may possibly continue,” he stated.


Gerald Imray reported from Cape Town.

By Editor

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