President Joe Biden hailed cooperation with Africa and said he looked forward to visiting the continent soon as he tries to expand ties in a region where China and Russia have made inroads.
Speaking at the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, Biden announced billions of dollars in new commitments to finance and strengthen democracy and affirmed his support for a permanent seat for the African Union in the Group of 20.
He sought to dispel the impression that his promises might be short-lived, appointing a senior diplomat to ensure the execution of summit commitments. And he said a host of Cabinet officials — along with his wife — will also visit Africa soon to demonstrate American interest there.
“I look forward to visiting your continent,” Biden told the nearly 50 leaders attending the conference. “Some of you invited me to your places. I said, “Be careful what you wish for because I might show up.”
“I look forward to seeing many of you in your countries,” he said.
Biden is hosting this week’s summit hoping to build stronger ties with African countries, emphasizing the US’s desire to work together rather than just sending aid and assistance.
“The United States is all in Africa and all with Africa,” Biden said Thursday. He said “African voices, African leadership, African innovation” were all needed to address a host of global challenges.
“Africa belongs at the table in every room, in every room where global challenges are discussed and every institution where discussions are taking place,” he said, noting his support for a seat for Africa in both the G20 and the UN Security Council. United Nations. .
“It’s been a long time coming, but it will come,” he said.
It is not the first time African leaders have heard a similar message from an American president. President Barack Obama held his 2014 US-Africa Leaders Summit, complete with gala dinner under a canopy on the South Lawn of the White House. He then promised to take action to help build more prosperity and security in Africa.
But his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, largely ignored Africa, never visiting the continent and even rudely disparaging several African nations at a 2018 meeting as “bad countries.”
Meanwhile, other nations have penetrated the continent. China has been working to increase trade relations with African countries and has developed major infrastructure projects there. Russia has expanded its military influence, including mercenaries such as the Wagner Group.
Biden avoided specifically mentioning those countries in his remarks, but he alluded to China’s creeping influence in Africa when he discussed new U.S. efforts to provide financing to “build sustainable and inclusive economies” with nations dependent on “debt payments in arrears”.
He said he was working with Congress to announce a total of $55 billion for investment in Africa in areas as diverse as rural development and cooperation in outer space.
He said the US will remain focused on leadership with values, including support for democracy, respect for the rule of law, commitment to human rights and an emphasis on accountable government.
Earlier this week, Biden met with leaders from several countries holding elections in 2023 to stress the importance of free and fair voting.
“We see again and again that our greatest strength is our people,” he said Thursday, announcing $75 million to strengthen transparent government, voter registration and constitutional reform.
He said Ambassador Johnnie Carson, a former assistant secretary of state for African affairs, will lead efforts to “ensure that we translate our commitments into paper for progress.”
And he said he was looking forward to going to Africa himself. Biden has not visited sub-Saharan Africa since taking office.