| 21 April 2024, Sunday |

Yellen welcomes South Africa’s energy transition, steers clear of Russia mention

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen praised South Africa’s “bold” engagement in a partnership for the energy transition that is supported by the US and other Western countries, but she avoided bringing up US worries over Pretoria’s scheduled military exercises with China and Russia.

On the third leg of her nearly two-week tour of Africa, Yellen talked to 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 prepared remarks, Yellen welcomed Godongwana’s “cooperation and insightful views” in their talks so far, and said she planned to raise several issues, including Zambia’s stalled sovereign debt restructuring effort, given South Africa’s key role on the country’s creditor committee.

“The United States strongly values our relationship with South Africa,” Yellen said in remarks that included no mention of Russia or China, or White House concerns about Pretoria’s plans to hold joint military drills with both countries.


Godongwana said the two would discuss countering the financing of terrorism, climate financing, resolving sovereign debt crises in Africa and global topics that will form part of a meeting of the G20 group of major economies next month.

He said Yellen’s visit was a “momentous” occasion, noting the previous visit by a U.S. Treasury secretary was in 2014, and praised Yellen’s announcement on Wednesday that the United States and South Africa were setting up a joint task force on combating financing of wildlife trafficking.

The U.S. Treasury issued no statement about Yellen’s closed-door meeting on Wednesday with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, a meeting described by Pretoria as a “courtesy call.”

South Africa has remained one of Moscow’s most important allies on a continent divided over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 last year.

Yellen’s trip has kicked off a yearlong charm offensive of U.S. top leader visits to Africa aimed at deepening U.S. economic ties with the continent and countering China’s long dominance of trade and lending with many African nations.

Throughout her visit, Yellen has emphasized the right of countries to choose their trading partners, while pitching the greater transparency and lasting nature of engagement with the United States.

The Treasury secretary, who meets with South Africa’s central bank governor later on Thursday, singled out South Africa’s “Just Energy Transition Partnership,” which was backed in late 2021 by the United States, Britain, France, Germany and the European Union. They pledged a combined $8.5 billion to accelerate South Africa’s transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, but the total bill will be much higher.

“This partnership represents South Africa’s bold first step toward expanding electricity access and reliability and creating a low carbon and climate resilient economy,” Yellen said, adding that it would “alleviate the deep fiscal strain the energy sector is putting on South Africa’s economy.”

  • Reuters