Biden has not appointed any black top envoys for Africa nearly four months into his presidency

No Black Americans have been appointed by President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to any prominent positions leading United States efforts in Africa, a continent with a very strong Black majority.

Secretary Antony J. Blinken participates in a virtual U.S. Embassy London meet and greet, in London, United Kingdom, on May 4, 2021. State Department Photo by Ron Przysucha 
Secretary Antony J. Blinken participates in a virtual U.S. Embassy London meet and greet, in London, United Kingdom, on May 4, 2021. State Department Photo by Ron Przysucha

Through the first few months of his presidency, Biden has filled numerous positions regarding diplomatic relations with Africa, ranging from Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa to Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. However, all his appointees thus far have been white.

Mary Catherine Phee 
Mary Catherine Phee

Biden’s Secretary of State, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, and USAID Administrator have all been greatly impactful in shaping United States-Africa relations and affecting policy pertaining to the continent. Notably, these important diplomatic positions, in addition to all the Special Envoys for African regions, have all been filled by white appointees.

The Biden administration has repeatedly emphasized that diplomacy will be at the center of American foreign policy and that under President Biden’s leadership, the United States will re-assert itself as a global force for good.

The recently appointed Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, is currently on a trip to Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia- speaking with the region’s leaders and working to address mounting tensions.

Jeffrey D. Feltman speaking at The London Conference on Afghanistan in 2014. Photo taken by Patrick Tsui 
Jeffrey D. Feltman speaking at The London Conference on Afghanistan in 2014. Photo taken by Patrick Tsui

Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan Donald Booth is currently in South Sudan working to help secure peace for the young nation and surrounding region.

The administration announced Monday the appointment of Ambassador Richard Norland to the position of Special Envoy for Libya, who will play a major role in diplomatic efforts to ensure stability and security in the region.

Donald Booth, the U.S. envoy to the crisis in Sudan, met Wednesday evening with representatives of the Transitional Military Council and the leading civilian protest group, the Forces of the Declaration of Freedom and Change. (Associated Press/File) 
Donald Booth, the U.S. envoy to the crisis in Sudan, met Wednesday evening with representatives of the Transitional Military Council and the leading civilian protest group, the Forces of the Declaration of Freedom and Change. (Associated Press/File)

While all of Biden’s Africa appointees thus far have come with very impressive diplomatic resumes, there is a lack of diversity in that they have all been white. None of the top diplomats involved in influencing US-Africa policies and relations, including the aforementioned envoys, are Black.

For many, it is concerning that these important decisions are not being made by Black people, given that Africa is primarily inhabited by Black people. As members of the Biden Administration have repeatedly claimed that Africa is an important priority in the administration’s diplomatic affairs, it is still unclear exactly what kind of a role it will play.

Ambassador Richard Norland 
Ambassador Richard Norland

As diplomatic relations with Africa continue to grow in importance, the lack of diversity amongst those shaping relations is worrisome. Could this lack of representation come back to hinder the United States’ efforts to engage cooperatively with African nations?

The fact that so many United States-Africa policies are being shaped by white diplomats inadvertently sends a troubling message of how the administration might envision the United States’ role in African affairs.

U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Samantha Power, moderates the Transparency, Accountability and Open Government panel at the White House Summit on Global Development in Washington, DC on July 20, 2016. Members of the panel included the Ford Foundation's Director of Civic Engagement and Government, Rakesh Rajani, Ukrainan Member of Parliament Svitlana Zalishchuk, and International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) President and CEO, Douglas Rutzen. 
USAID Administrator Samantha Power

In an administration that has the first ever Black Vice President and has time and time again emphasized the importance of diversity, the lack of representation of Black U.S. Special Envoys for Africa is concerning and raises many questions about the future of United States relations with the majority Black continent.

Noah Pitcher is a global politics correspondent for Today News Africa covering the U.S. government, United Nations, African Union, and other actors involved in international developments, political controversies, and humanitarian issues.

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