South Africa: South Africa to Host US-Africa Trade Summit Despite Diplomatic Tensions

Harare — South Africa will host a U.S.-Africa trade meeting in November despite earlier calls from U.S. politicians for the event to be shifted due to what they claimed was the country’s developing military connection with Russia, Reuters reports.

The U.S.-sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum will be held in Johannesburg, the capital of South Africa, from November 2 to 4, according to a statement released on Wednesday by U.S. and South African officials. The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which offers tariff-free access to the American market and is set to expire on September 30, 2025, will be discussed at the summit as well as the future of Washington’s main trade initiative for the continent.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, U.S. and European leaders made an effort to mobilize African states against Moscow’s actions. However, the majority of African states refrained from taking a position. Despite Pretoria’s stated neutrality, Washington expressed concern over the alleged tight relations between Russia and South Africa, a significant commercial partner of the United States in Africa. Leading U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate figures encouraged the Joe Biden administration to pick a different location for the US-Africa trade forum in a letter from June.

They also suggested that South Africa’s trade privileges under AGOA would be terminated, citing the country’s combined naval exercises with China and Russia in February and plans to welcome Russian President Vladimir Putin at a BRICS bloc conference. The senators seemed to support the U.S. ambassador to South Africa’s bombshell claim that a Russian warship under sanctions amassed weaponry at a South African naval base last year.

Putin then decided against attending the BRICS conference despite being sought by the International Criminal Court on suspicion of war crimes in Ukraine. Additionally, a South African probe into the alleged consignment of weaponry found no evidence to support the accusations. Ebrahim Patel, the trade minister of South Africa, called for an extension of AGOA in his remarks on September 20, in an effort to move past the event.