The desire to limit Soviet influence in Africa will probably be the driving principle behind a Reagan administration's southern Africa policy. And that could translate into a softening of criticism of the white minority government in South Africa, which is vehemently anticommunist.
As a candidate, Mr. Reagan embraced markedly different positions on southern African issues than did President Carter. It remains to be seen, however, whether those positions change on his moving into the Oval Office.
South Africa itself can probably expect a softening of criticism from Washington once Mr. Reagan takes office. Although the President-elect says he is opposed to the South African system of apartheid (racial separation), he also places great stress on the importance of South Africa's strategic minerals to the West.
Mr. Reagan says South Africans "certainly don't need us to tell them how to solve their race problems."
Once he is in office, however, that attitude may well be tempered by the fact that the government of Nigeria, the No. 2 exporter of oil to America, is unalterably opposed to apartheid.