Victoria Nuland, the Acting Deputy Secretary of State for the United States, began a three-nation tour to Africa on Saturday that follows both the just-completed Russia-Africa summit and a coup in Niger that’s renewed concern over African reliance on Russia and Wagner Group Russian fighters.
Nuland is expected to lead the U.S. team participating in the U.S.-South Africa Working Group on African and Global Issues (WGAGI) discussions. Past meetings have emphasized U.S. commitment to Africa through a host of issues, including support for the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and security priorities like the conflict in Ethiopia.
Nuland also plans meetings on the energy sector with South African government and business leaders, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of State.
In Côte d’Ivoire, Nuland will discuss regional peace and security issues, economic cooperation, and support for democratic governance. In Democratic Republic of the Congo, humanitarian aid also will be top of mind.
Nuland’s arrival in South Africa also comes ahead of a controversial BRICS summit that begins August 22 in Johannesburg. The leaders of Brazil, China and India are still expected to attend but President Vladimir Putin of Russia has signaled that he’ll skip the meeting. Putin is the subject of an International Criminal Court warrant issued in March.
South African opposition leader Julius Malema on Sunday called for other BRICS countries to boycott the meetings in support of Russia, which has long enjoyed strong diplomatic ties with South Africa.
Many African nations with ties to Russia have remained neutral during the conflict with Ukraine. President Cyril Ramaphosa recently led a team of African negotiators focused on ending the fighting between Russia and Ukraine.