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Musings From Abroad

Biden, Kenya’s Ruto vow to protect democracy in Africa

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During a state visit to the White House on Thursday, US President, Joe Biden, welcomed Kenyan President, William Ruto, and promised to establish new collaborations with him in technology, security, and debt relief. Ruto leads one of the most powerful democracies in Africa.

Ruto’s journey to the White House marks the first state visit by an African president since 2008. It is a sign of the importance of a continent that supports strong commercial relations with China, is home to one billion people, but is ranked lower on Washington’s agenda than the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine.

Ruto was the special guest of honor at a sumptuous state dinner on Thursday night, which was attended by a diverse group of people, including NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, singer-songwriter Don McLean, CEOs of Pfizer (PFE.N) and Walmart (WMT.N), former President Bill Clinton, and others. Before the dinner, former President Barack Obama, whose father was from Kenya, gave a quick speech.

“We may be divided by distance, but the same democratic values unite us,” Biden said as he greeted Ruto on the South Lawn of the White House. Biden reminisced about his own visits to Kenya as a young man, hailing 60 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries after Kenya’s independence.

“My visit takes place at a time when democracy is perceived to be retreating worldwide,” Ruto said, standing with Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and other cabinet officials. Earlier, he had met privately with Biden in the Oval Office.

“We agreed on the significant opportunity for the U.S. to recalibrate its strategy and strengthen its support for Africa radically,” Ruto said. Biden said he would designate Kenya as the first sub-Saharan African country to be a major non-NATO ally. Qatar, Israel and 16 other countries share that designation.

 

Nairobi and Washington work together to combat terrorism in Africa, maintain security in Haiti, and aid the Ukrainian people. The president of Kenya arrived in the US on Monday, travelled to Atlanta, and on Wednesday, had a meeting with business leaders at the White House. At a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event on Friday, he will talk with Vice President Kamala Harris about digital inclusion in Africa.

Although Washington has struggled to forge strong relationships, successive U.S. administrations have stated that they wish to provide African nations with a more democratic and durable option to relations with China and Russia.

A slew of military takeovers, conflicts, and unreliable elections have altered the political landscape of the continent in the last year, giving China and Russia more clout. Seen as a democratic bastion, Biden believes closer ties with Kenya will help stabilize the continent and further American interests.

In a joint statement, the two presidents requested the warring parties in Sudan to grant humanitarian access to aid and consent to a truce, and they pledged to cooperate with the Somali government in its battle against terrorism.

Musings From Abroad

Production at China’s $1 billion Tsingshan steel mill in Zimbabwe begins

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A corporate official announced on Thursday that Tsingshan Holding Group, a $1 billion steel mill in central Zimbabwe, is now producing nickel, the largest nickel producer in China.

During a factory tour, project director Wilfred Motsi informed reporters that Tsingshan’s Dinson Iron and Steel Company will produce 600,000 metric tons of carbon steel annually during the first phase of operations.

“We have started to produce pig iron, which is a raw material used for the production of steel. By July, that’s when we will start to produce the actual carbon steel,” Motsi said.
He did not say how long the first phase would last.

Tsingshan, a prominent global producer of nickel, has made noteworthy investments in Zimbabwe throughout the past few years. In addition to the steel mill, Tsingshan operates enterprises in southern Africa that mine lithium, ferrochrome, and coking coal.

In Dinson, the business has constructed a 50-megawatt thermal power plant. To meet 20% of its electricity needs, the steel plant will use the gas produced by its furnace to generate additional power.

To lessen the negative effects of Zimbabwe’s electricity shortages on its operations, the company also intends to construct a solar power facility.

The total estimated value of iron and steel imports from Zimbabwe in 2020 was $128 million. Compared to the previous year, when the products were imported to the tune of about 114 million U.S. dollars, this represented an increase in value.

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Musings From Abroad

Russia eyes more partnership with South Africa as Putin congratulates Ramaphosa

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Kremlin leader, Vladimir Putin, has congratulated Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa on his reelection as president.

On the Kremlin website, a statement from Putin’s phone conversation with Ramaphosa was posted: “Hope was expressed for continued joint work on further strengthening of the partnership between Russia and South Africa in all its aspects.”

Parliament reelected Ramaphosa on Friday. However, the creation of a government composed of five parties so far was spurred by his African National Congress party’s inability to secure a majority in last month’s election—the first such loss in thirty years.

Since the invasion in 2022, Russia and Ukraine have been competing with one another for support from African countries, sending their foreign ministers on many regional tours.

Like many other African nations, South Africa has deep ties to Moscow that go back to the Soviet era, when Moscow was a major supporter of the ANC’s campaign to end apartheid and other liberation organizations.

After opposing Russia’s invasion in February 2022, South Africa has since taken a more nuanced stance, abstaining from many votes in the UN General Assembly denouncing Russian actions.

South Africa spent the weekend in the “peace summit” on Ukraine, which was hosted by Switzerland. Even though several controversial issues were left out to get broader support, Saudi Arabia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, and other countries declined to sign the final communiqué.

As the host nation for the BRICS summit in 2023, South Africa was faced with a difficult decision: even though the Russian president had an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court of Justice for allegedly deporting Ukrainian children, the country thought about inviting Putin to the event.

South Africa has maintained relations with Russia and has opened stands against Western powers in global politics in recent times.

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