Participants express worry about US-Africa relations at IEA forum

BY: Juliet Akyaa Safo
Some participants listening to the views  and insights of former President Mahama at the discussion
Some participants listening to the views and insights of former President Mahama at the discussion

Participants in a public forum on United States (US)-Africa relations have expressed worry about the indisposition of the US to deepen relations with Africa and some other countries.

They explained that recent actions taken by the US, such as pulling out of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and the cutting down of immigrants to the US, were not encouraging.

The panellists at the forum were former President John Dramani Mahama, a former US Representative to the African Union (AU), Ambassador Reuben Brigety II, and the Board Chairman of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), Dr Charles Mensa.

Also at the forum were the US Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Robert Jackson, and some officials from the US embassy. The forum was organised by the IEA in Accra last Monday and was on the theme: “United States-Africa Relations.”

IEA host envoy

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The IEA hosted a former Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of African Affairs in former President Barack Obama’s administration, Ambassador Dr Reuben E. Brigety II.

He also served as a representative of the US to the AU and a permanent representative to the United Nations (UN) Economic Commission for Africa.

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Dr Brigety was at the institute to present a paper on the subject: US-Africa Relations: Challenges, Prospects and the Way Forward.”

He was accompanied by Ambassador Jackson, and Mr Mahama was the special guest of honour.

The event was chaired by Dr Mensa.


In his presentation, Dr Brigety provided an overview of the relationship between the US and Africa.

He stated that under the Obama administration, the US expanded its presence and economic engagement in Africa.

He, however, noted with concern that under the Trump administration, the engagement with Africa had been virtually insignificant.

He emphasised the need for the US to take into consideration the changing trends in Africa.

In his view, it was time for the US to assess its stance and relationship with Africa.

Africa rising

Dr Brigety cited the headlines of the Time Magazine, which two decades ago described Africa as a lost continent. Almost two decades on, the same magazine had ‘Africa Rising’ splashed on its front pages.

According to him, it was evident that African leaders were equally concerned about the passive approach of the Trump administration towards Africa and noted the lack of high-level engagements with Africa.

To buttress his point, he stated that nearly two years into the Trump administration, no Secretary of State for African Affairs had been appointed to oversee and coordinate policies concerning Africa, as well as to engage African leaders. That, in his view, was a source of worry and concern.

Africa-US ties

Mr Mahama shared his views on Africa’s relations with the US.

He elucidated that the strained relationship between Africa and the US commenced under the Trump administration.

Prior to the Trump administration, he noted, several African countries regarded themselves as ‘friends’ of the US but the posturing of the current administration had resulted in a frosty relationship.

Question time

Addressing a question posed by Dr Rashid Pelpuo on how Africa could articulate its foreign policy towards the US, Dr Brigety noted that no individual African country had the capacity to fundamentally shape or change any bilateral relations with any of the world powers.

He noted that the AU, as a body, could engage effectively with the US and other world powers.

The discussions were vibrant and engaging and brought together key stakeholders, including senior government officials, academics, representatives of civil society organisations, members of the diplomatic corps and the media. Among the dignitaries in attendance were Mr Nesrin Bayat (Turkish Ambassador to Ghana),

Dr Ziblim Iddi (Member of Parliament [MP]) and Deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture), Mr Sam Okudzeto-Ablakwa (MP), Mr Ben Abdallah Banda (MP), Mr Inusah Fuseini (MP), Mr Rashid Pelpuo (MP), Mr Peter Mac Manu (Former Chairman of President Akufo-Addo’s election team and Chairman of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority), Commissioner Of Police Dr George Dampare (Director General of Research and Planning, Ghana Police Service) and Mr Kwaku Sakyi-Addo (Chairman of the National Communications Authority).