Yellen applauds South Africa’s energy reform but avoids mentioning Russia.
On Thursday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen praised South Africa’s “bold” involvement in the so-called Just Energy Transition Partnership, which is supported by the United States and other Western countries, but she avoided bringing up American worries about Pretoria’s planned military exercises with China and Russia.
On the third leg of her nearly two-week tour of Africa, Yellen talked to the media in Pretoria with the South African Finance Minister, Enoch Godongwana. This was only a few days after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s visit to South Africa.
In her prepared remarks, Yellen expressed appreciation for Godongwana’s “cooperation and insightful views” during their initial discussions. She also stated that, given South Africa’s significant position on Zambia’s creditor committee, she planned to bring up a number of issues, including Zambia’s stalled attempt at restructuring its sovereign debt.
Yellen stated that “the United States deeply appreciates our partnership with South Africa” in statements that omitted any mention of China or Russia, as well as the White House’s worries about Pretoria’s intentions to conduct joint military exercises with both nations.
Godongwana stated that the two would speak about combating financial terrorism, financing for climate change, resolving sovereign debt challenges in Africa, and other international issues that will be covered at the G20 summit next month.
He noted that the last time a U.S. Treasury secretary visited was in 2014 and described Yellen’s visit as a “momentous” occasion.
Regarding Yellen’s Wednesday private meeting with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, which Pretoria referred to as a “courtesy call,” the U.S. Treasury made no comment.
As a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 of last year, South Africa has continued to be one of Moscow’s most crucial allies on the continent.
In an effort to strengthen economic connections with the continent and challenge China’s long-standing hegemony in trade and lending with many African countries, Yellen’s trip marked the beginning of a charm offensive of top American leaders’ visits to Africa over the next year.
Yellen has highlighted the freedom of nations to select their economic partners throughout her visit, while also touting the higher transparency and long-lasting nature of engagement with the United States.
The Treasury secretary singled out South Africa’s “Just Energy Transition Partnership,” which was supported in late 2021 by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, and the European Union. He meets with the governor of South Africa’s central bank later on Thursday. They each pledged a total of $8.5 billion to quicken South Africa’s switch to renewable energy, but the total cost will be substantially higher.
According to Yellen, this partnership “represents South Africa’s bold first step toward enhancing electricity access and reliability and creating a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy.” It will also alleviate the severe fiscal strain the energy sector is currently placing on South Africa’s economy.