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US treasury chief Janet Yellen arrives in Senegal

Yellen's trip comes a month after the US-Africa summit in Washington, where the US President promised billions of dollars in investment, trade and development aid   -  
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Stefan Kleinowitz/Copyright 2020 The AP. All rights reserved.


The US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Friday in Dakar touted her country's relationship with Africa, saying it offered more benefits than Washington's rivals.

"The United States is fully behind Africa and fully with Africa," Yellen said at the start of a trip to Africa, one of the first in a series expected from senior Biden administration officials since the launch in December of a US offensive to regain influence on a continent that is the site of fierce economic and political competition between great powers.

Joe Biden has promised to make his first visit as president to sub-Saharan Africa at a summit with the leaders of some 50 African states in December. Yellen said the visit would take place this year, along with that of Vice President Kamala Harris and several ministers.

"Our commitment is not bargainable, it is not window dressing, and it is not short term," Ms Yellen told an audience of entrepreneurs.

Ms Yellen promised Africa a "partnership" in development, investment and trade in the areas of climate, health and security. It is about realising the "massive economic potential" represented by Africa because of its youth and growing population and middle classes, she said.

Ukraine, debt

She contrasted the US and Russian approaches. Many African countries refused to align themselves with Western positions on Ukraine. After the Covid-19 pandemic, Russia's war in Ukraine "has pushed millions of Africans into poverty and hunger", she said. She accused Russia of using food as a weapon.

"The first thing we can do for the global economy is to end Russia's illegal war without any provocation," she said.

She also referred to the practices of China, which is increasingly present on the continent, and in particular the over-indebtedness of many African countries to China.

"The international community, including China, must provide significant debt relief to help countries get back on their feet," she said.

In contrast, US commitments in Africa take into account the danger of debt, but also "high standards of accountability and transparency", she said, echoing frequent accusations of social or environmental shortcomings against companies in some countries, including China.

She also referred to the "different approach" of the United States in terms of the priority given to good governance or environmental responsibility by African governments and institutions.

Ms Yellen was due to be received Friday evening by Senegalese President Macky Sall. She is due to travel to Zambia on Sunday and then to South Africa.

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