US lawmakers urge relocating US-Africa summit over South Africa-Russia ties

A group of American legislators has urged for the relocation of the upcoming US-Africa trade summit, initially set to take place in South Africa later this year. The lawmakers cited concerns over South Africa’s “deepening military relationship” with Russia as the reason for their request. In a letter addressed to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other high-ranking officials, they also warned that South Africa risks losing its benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) – the United States’ primary trade programme.

The AGOA Forum, scheduled to be held in Johannesburg, will see African leaders and US officials gather to discuss the future of the programme, which is due to expire in 2025. South Africa’s exports to the US under AGOA reached nearly US$1bn in the first quarter of this year, making the country the second-largest beneficiary of the programme after Nigeria. African nations aim to extend AGOA, which provides qualifying countries’ exports with preferential access to the US market.

The letter, dated June 9, expressed serious concerns that hosting the 2023 AGOA Forum in South Africa would be an implicit endorsement of the country’s damaging support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In response, South African foreign ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela took to Twitter, stating that there has been no decision by the State Department or White House to move the AGOA Forum from South Africa.

South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry, responsible for managing the nation’s trade relations with the United States, has no plans to publicly address the letter. Judd Devermont, a special assistant to President Joe Biden focusing on Africa, acknowledged the White House’s shared concerns with Congress over South Africa’s potential security partnership with Russia. However, he did not confirm whether the administration was considering changing the AGOA Forum’s venue.

South Africa’s government maintains a neutral stance regarding the war in Ukraine, with President Cyril Ramaphosa participating in African leaders’ efforts to mediate the conflict. Nevertheless, the lawmakers expressed frustration with South Africa’s joint naval operations with China and Russia in February and its plans to hold a BRICS summit, to which Russian President Vladimir Putin is invited despite being charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Court.

The legislators also supported the US ambassador to South Africa’s claim that a sanctioned Russian vessel collected weapons at a South African naval base last year. South African officials deny knowledge of such an arms transfer and have initiated an independent inquiry into the incident.

Herman Mashaba, the former mayor of Johannesburg, announced on Twitter his intention to write a letter to the US lawmakers, asking them to “give South Africa a chance until after the 2024 Provincial and National government [elections]”. He argued that South Africans should not be punished as a result of the ANC government’s decision to be “on the wrong side of history”.

World News

Matthew Coles

Matthew is a British journalist with a unique flair in reporting about the latest news and events happening in Europe. Matthew focuses on producing well-researched, balanced, and narrative-driven content related to both national and regional interests across various European countries. He is passionate about discovering the diverse cultures found within Europe and showcasing them through his insightful articles.

Related Articles