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South Africa to host U.S.-Africa trade summit amid Russia ties debate 



South Africa announced its commitment to host a U.S.-Africa trade summit in November, despite earlier demands from the U.S. legislators to relocate the event due to concerns about South Africa’s perceived deepening military ties with Russia.  

Reuters reported that in a joint statement issued by U.S. and South African officials, it was confirmed that Johannesburg would be the venue for the U.S.-sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum, scheduled to take place from November 2nd to November 4th 

The summit will primarily focus on the discussions regarding the future of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a flagship trade initiative by Washington designed to grant African nations tariff-free access to the U.S. market.  

AGOA’s current authorization is set to expire on September 30th, 2025. 

United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai expressed optimism about the prospects of the African continent, as President Biden emphasized that “the future is Africa.” Tai eagerly anticipated her visit to South Africa to explore opportunities to enhance the transformative potential of AGOA. 

In the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, U.S. and European officials have been working to garner African governments’ opposition to Moscow’s actions. However, most African nations have refrained from taking sides in this conflict.  

Despite South Africa’s declared neutrality, its perceived close relationship with Russia has raised concerns in Washington, as South Africa is a significant U.S. trade partner in Africa.  

In a letter dated June, prominent members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate urged the Biden administration to consider an alternative location for the U.S.-Africa summit.  

They pointed to South Africa’s joint naval exercises with China and Russia in February and its plans to host Russian President Vladimir Putin at a BRICS summit. Furthermore, they suggested that South Africa’s trade benefits under AGAO might be revoked.  

These legislators appeared to support the U.S. ambassador’s claim that a Russian vessel, subject to sanctions, had gathered weapons at a South African naval base the previous year. 

Ultimately, Putin, who faces an International Criminal Court warrant for war crimes in Ukraine, did not attend the September BRICS summit, and a South African investigation found the accusation of arms delivery to be baseless.  

In the joint statement released on Wednesday, Ebrahim Patel, South Africa’s trade minister, aimed to shift the focus away from these controversies and emphasized the need to extend AGOA.

He argued that extending AGOA beyond 2025 would stimulate investment in Africa, benefitting both the United States and African nations.