Letter to the Editor: The U.S. Must Enhance its COVID-19 African Diplomacy


The United States has been a key fixture in aiding other nations for decades, stemming back to the enactment of the 1948 Marshall Plan to rebuild post-WWII Europe. This aid has not been provided solely due to any moral obligation — foreign aid carries with it a laundry list of benefits. National security is enhanced when vulnerable populations can turn to actors allied with the U.S. for assistance. Additionally, trade is enhanced when previously underdeveloped markets grow, increasing our exports and expanding American domestic job production.

The lackluster public health system in place in Africa prior to COVID-19 was not equipped to handle a pandemic of this magnitude, making these countries turn to other states internationally for assistance. Increased American isolationism in recent years has allowed other countries to fill the old role the U.S. played in the international system; specifically, China.

The Chinese were already expanding their humanitarian assistance in Africa prior to COVID-19, but their presence has only increased following the completion of their own COVID vaccine. China has already begun a massive distribution campaign, selling and even donating millions of vaccines to many African countries.

The U.S., on the other hand, is refraining from doing so, despite having purchased more vaccines than its population needs and being equipped with a manufacturing system that is currently outpacing the rate at which people are being vaccinated.

The 2021 International Affairs Budget includes most of the funding allotted to diplomatic efforts and American foreign aid programs. However, it only takes up 1.2% of the total federal budget. While this is an increase from the international affairs budgets of the Trump era, spending on global health only increased by 1% from 2020. If the U.S. hopes to maintain its influence in these emerging markets without being outpaced by China, then it must increase its financial commitment to developing these regions.

The Marshall Plan rebuilt Europe following WWII and cemented their allyship with an economically reinvigorated United States. As this pandemic comes to an end, it seems unlikely that we will reemerge as a wealthier, healthier and more influential nation.

I am calling on U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler to vocalize her support for additional American foreign aid and humanitarian development in a time wherein the world needs our assistance and leadership.


Brayden Burke