In 2023, no plans for Joe Biden’s long-awaited African trip have materialized. And there’s no indication that he plans to attend the upcoming U.N. climate change conference in Dubai. Presidential travel plans usually leave clues about their priorities, but Biden’s promises for closer relationships with African countries and global leadership on climate change have not been visibly acted upon.
As Biden faces a potentially challenging 2024 reelection campaign along with several domestic and foreign matters, Africa seems to be on the back burner. It contradicts his enthusiastic claims from the previous year about Africa being a strategic focus for the U.S.
With no signs of progress, Biden’s failure to visit Africa this year might dampen the previously strong momentum. Some see these trips as mostly symbolic and having little impact with African leaders. On the other hand, the African Union, as a new member of the Group of 20 leading economies, can wield rising influence on the global stage.
Despite that, White House officials have yet to unveil trip plans while emphasizing Biden’s dedication to reducing fossil fuel usage and his hopes for a successful climate summit. The challenges of Biden’s hectic year and ongoing international crises may further complicate travel plans.
The absence of Biden at the 2023 U.N. climate change conference comes as a disappointment to several experts and African leaders who had eagerly awaited his visit following his initial announcement. The continent’s significance in the U.S.-China geopolitical rivalry adds more weight to the urgency of a visit.
Biden’s absence could deal a considerable blow considering the efforts to strengthen relations with American allies in Africa. However, the Obama administration officials’ visits to Africa have been a sign of America’s commitment to the continent. President Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana, expressed hope that Biden’s visit would restore past positive relations between the US and Ghana. A show of goodwill from Biden would also strengthen the US’ image in the region.