The US is seeking to deepen its economic integration with South Africa in pursuit of policies to diversify global supply chains, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said.
Closer ties with nations that share the US’s economic values will help promote so-called friendshoring, in which allies cooperate on manufacturing and sourcing raw materials, Yellen said at a meeting with South African Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana on Thursday.
Her remarks come in a week in which South Africa defended its neutral stance in Russia’s war with Ukraine — in the face of US calls for a harder line — and before the country conducts naval exercises with Russia and China’s military next month.
“We are deepening economic integration with the many countries that we can count on,” Yellen said.
“That includes our many trusted trading partners on this continent – like South Africa. We believe that this policy can help increase the resilience of both our economies.”
Yellen also said she’ll discuss with Godongwana efforts to restructure Zambia’s debt. South Africa is a vice chair of Zambia’s creditors committee.
Zambia is seen as a test case for a program organized by the G-20, known as the Common Framework, aimed at easing the path for poor countries to multilateral debt-relief agreements.
China, Zambia’s largest creditor, has repeatedly been blamed for holding up a deal to restructure the nation’s loans.
The Treasury chief has put increasing pressure on Beijing over the issue, including on a stopover in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, earlier this week.
Her comments provoked an angry response from China’s embassy there, which accused the US of “sabotaging other nations’ efforts to solve their debt issues.”
Godongwana said in October that South Africa, the continent’s only member of the G-20, is working with other African nations to propose reforms to the Common Framework.
So far, four countries – Zambia, Chad, Ethiopia and Ghana – have opted to use the mechanism to rework their obligations.
Yellen is on a 10-day trip through Africa aimed at building US ties with the continent.
She said she also looked forward to discussing with Godongwana potential changes at the World Bank, pandemic preparedness, South Africa’s economic outlook, and energy-sector reforms in the country.