As President Joe Biden invites dozens of regional leaders for the second US-Africa Leaders Summit this week in Washington, DC, the US hopes to increase cooperation with African countries.
The three-day summit, which starts on Tuesday, will concentrate on pressing issues like the climate crisis, good governance, food security, and global health as well as expanding trade and investment prospects between the US and Africa.
The summit’s foundation is the understanding that Africa is a significant geopolitical player. The world’s destiny will be shaped by the continent, not only that of the African people, said US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan to reporters on Monday.
According to Sullivan, 49 African heads of state and government, as well as the African Union, were invited to the meeting.
The discussions are a follow-up to the original conference, which former US President Barack Obama hosted eight years ago. They are the largest international gathering to take place in Washington, DC, since before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
After four years of his predecessor Donald Trump‘s “America First” foreign policy, Biden has worked to mend Washington’s connections with other nations and to reengage with international organizations like the United Nations.
During that time, the US’s influence in Africa diminished, and representatives of the Biden administration have emphasized the importance of fortifying connections with like-minded nations in the area.
“The US will invest $55 billion in Africa over the course of the next three years, working closely with Congress,” Sullivan said on Monday.
China, which the US perceives as its main global rival, has routinely surpassed Washington in its investments in Africa at the time of the summit. In reaction to pressure from the US and its allies regarding the conflict in Ukraine, Russia is also attempting to garner support on the continent.
However, senior Biden administration officials downplayed their mounting worries about China and Russia in the run-up to this week’s meetings. They have instead emphasized the significance of including African countries in international debates.
White House Advisor Judd Devermont stated on December 9 that “we need more African voices in international dialogues that concern the global economy, democracy and governance, climate change, health, and security.”
The Biden administration updated its sub-Saharan Africa strategy in August, highlighting the importance of the region and pledging to expand defense cooperation with like-minded states.
In November, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken added that in order to assist Africa with its infrastructure requirements, Washington will have to act differently. Blinken noted that it was time to stop considering the continent as a geopolitical object and start recognizing it as an important participant in its own right.
The area requires billions of dollars annually for power, dams, railroads, and other infrastructure, and for the past ten years, it has received a sizable amount of funding from China, which typically does not bind funding to political or rights-related stipulations.
Chinese lending has been decried by Washington as exploitative and a possible trigger for debt traps. Instead, it has concentrated on encouraging private investment, but officials agree that more has to be done by the US to expedite aid.
Biden will give a keynote talk to the US-Africa Business Forum on Wednesday as part of this week’s summit before hosting a dinner for the international leaders gathered in the American capital.
During the summit, the US president is anticipated to support a permanent place for the African Union in the Group of 20, a forum for major economies. Sullivan predicted that Biden will also pledge his support for an African permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Sullivan told reporters, “It’s past time for Africa to have permanent seats at the table in international organizations and projects.”
After months of supply concerns and disruptions related to the conflict in Ukraine, Biden and the other heads of state and leaders will have discussions on Thursday to promote food security. With a select group of leaders, he will also talk about democracy and the elections in Africa in 2023, according to Sullivan.
According to John Stremlau, a visiting professor of international relations at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, “one of the unique aspects of this summit is the collateral damage that the Russian war has inflicted on Africa in terms of food supply and the diversion of development assistance to Ukraine,” The Associated Press reported.
According to Stremlau, “the opportunity costs of the invasion have been extraordinarily substantial in Africa.”
Local authorities in Washington, DC are announcing barricades and increased security as the dozens of invited leaders move throughout the city for the discussions, and they are cautioning people to expect them.
Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, and Sudan will not be represented because the US has invited all members of the African Union who are in good standing. The requirement for attendees to have complete connections with Washington excludes Eritrea.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a former US ally who the Biden administration accuses of supporting extensive violations in the Tigray war, will be one of the most highly watched officials anticipated in Washington. Last month, hostilities were halted as a result of a ground-breaking agreement.
Additionally present will be the presidents of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as Blinken attempts to put pressure on Rwanda over its suspected aid to rebels occupying territory in the neighboring DRC.
Other heads of state scheduled to attend the meeting include Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Tunisia’s Kais Saied, and Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who will be attending days after the US dubbed his most recent election a fraud.
There are also plans to invite Zimbabwe’s foreign minister, who is subject to US sanctions.
According to analysts, African leaders would be expecting Biden to make some significant pledges during the negotiations, such as announcing his first presidential trip to sub-Saharan Africa and initiatives to support the continent’s economy through trade and private sector investment.
Since it has been so long since the last summit in 2014, according to Mvemba Phezo Dizolele, director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the US is entering the meeting with a “confidence deficit.”
He stated, “The summit offers fantastic prospects, but it also has significant hazards.”
He continued, “This is a chance to demonstrate to Africa that the US really wants to listen to them. The question will be, “What will be different now that we have great expectations?”