Yellen Praises South Africa's Energy Transition

    Yellen Praises South Africa's Energy Transition
    Last updated Jan 26, 2023
    Image credit: Reuters [via Business Live]


    • US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Thursday welcomed South Africa's efforts to accelerate its transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy under the Western-backed "Just Energy Transition Partnership" as she met South African Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana.[1]
    • She also stated that the US is seeking deeper economic integration with South Africa to "enrich the resilience" of both economies. She stressed that closer ties with countries that share US economic values will bolster so-called "friendshoring," when allies cooperate in processing and sourcing raw materials.[2]
    • On Wednesday, Yellen announced the formation of a joint task force to combat the financing of illegal wildlife trafficking, reportedly aimed at expanding information sharing between US and South African financial intelligence units and strengthening anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing controls.[3]
    • This comes as the US Treasury chief arrived in South Africa on Wednesday for bilateral talks on the third and final leg of her 10-day African trip, two days after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited the country.[4]
    • Lavrov visited the country ahead of naval exercises to be hosted in South Africa in February jointly with Russia and China, about which Washington voiced its concerns earlier this week.[5]
    • Yellen's African trip, with previous stops in Senegal and Zambia, kicked off a string of visits by senior US officials aimed at deepening US-Africa economic ties. Along with a growing middle class, the second-largest continent boasts 40% of the world's gold, up to 90% of its chromium and platinum, and the largest reserves of cobalt, diamonds, platinum, and uranium.[6]


    Pro-establishment narrative

    Following the African Leaders Summit, Yellen's trip to Africa comes at just the right time to underscore the Biden administration's commitment to the $55B revival of US-Africa relations. The climate crisis, Africa's representation in global institutions, and the pressing issue of sovereign debt are among the most important areas where the US has significant leverage. Washington should offer support and investment to protect African economies and strengthen Africa's economic development for mutual benefit.

    Establishment-critical narrative

    The new US charm offensive aims to curb the growing influence of China and Russia in Africa. But trapped in the old hegemonic thinking, Washington is simultaneously threatening to punish African states that trade with geopolitical adversaries like Russia — and that's just one reason why Washington is losing credibility in Africa. Only when the US understands that a multipolar era has dawned and that it no longer determines the world's and Africa's fate will it be accepted by Africans as a credible partner.

    Narrative C

    Above all, Yellen's Africa trip highlights the difficulty the US faces in convincing countries globally that their interests are better served by allying with Washington than with China or Russia. However, the increasing competition between various geopolitical rivals for influence in Africa may work to the continent's advantage if African governments avoid taking sides in the new "Scramble for Africa" and instead act in their countries' unique political and economic interests.

    Nerd narrative

    There's a 50% chance that South Africa's GDP per capita PPP will be at least $12,100 in 2030 (in constant 2017 USD), according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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