Despite Biden joke, US is serious about its relations with Africa 

0
  • US$55 billion to be invested in Africa over the next three years along with several new partnerships and initiatives.
  • The U.S.-Africa Business Forum was held and attended by 300 executives from American and African companies.
  • For African youth development, the US announced more than $100 million in funding for the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).

This year’s U.S. Africa Leaders Summit (13-15 Dec) in Washington has been defined not by the African guest’s colourful dress code, but by the billions that were pledged in aid, grants and support.

To the welcome of the flamboyant African leaders and businessmen, US officials and corporate chiefs announced US$55 billion to be invested in Africa over the next three years along with several new partnerships and initiatives.

The sum is significant, but going with President Joe Biden’s statement, this is just the beginning. “There’s so much more we can do together and that we will do together.”

Just how ‘together’ the US is with Africa can be denoted in Biden’s analogy of the numerous invites he received from the African leaders; an analogy that the Voice of America (VOA) chose to call a joke.

“As I told some of you — you invited me to your countries,” he said. “Be careful what you wish for because I may show up. The poor relatives always show up. The wealthy ones never show up. The poor come and they eat your food and stay longer than they should. Well, I’m looking forward to seeing many of you in your home countries.”

VOA took note of the irony in President Biden’s joke.

“It’s a striking joke from the leader of the world’s wealthiest nation, who spent much of Wednesday touting U.S. plans to deliver $55 billion in assistance to a continent struggling with food insecurity, inequality and a painful legacy of colonialism.”

All jokes aside, President Biden did not confirm any of the visits he received but he did take the time to entertain his guests as they watched a World cup match where the remaining African nation in the tournament was eliminated at the semi-finals.

However, all is not lost, for Africa can rest assured that the US is committed to Africa’s future and none said it better than President Biden himself; “…the United States is all in on Africa’s future.”

U.S. Africa Business Forum

On the sidelines of the U.S.- Africa Leaders Summit, the U.S.-Africa Business Forum was held and attended by 300 executives from American and African companies.

That forum was under the umbrella of the US Prosper Africa initiative that is designed to increase trade and investment between Africa and the United States. $15 billion was committed to expand, modernize, and deepen commercial ties between the two continents.

It is at the close of the forum that President Biden announced a new initiative code named, the Digital Transformation with Africa (DTA).

DTA is meant to expand digital access across the continent. As the initiative presenters put it; ‘the growth and expansion potential of Africa’s digital economy offers massive opportunities to spur economic recovery and create jobs.”

A timely statement as US based Starlink, the satellite internet company owned by Elon Musk is extending its footprint in Africa to ‘help increase connectivity in remote areas.’

Also timely was the U.S. Africa Space Forum which was held on the sidelines of the summit in which African leaders heard how ‘outer space can be a catalyst to advance shared U.S.-Africa goals on Earth.’

To drive the point home, US Deputy Secretary Graves underlined the role of space technologies and space commerce, aided by the U.S. private sector, in driving technological and private sector development in Africa.

“All U.S. businesses should take note of new opportunities for trade, investment, and commerce in Africa, spurred by improvements in the business environment, a continent-wide free trade area, and a new generation of entrepreneurs on the move,” the US attendees at the forum were urged.

Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI)

For African youth development, the US announced more than $100 million in funding for the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).

With USAID leadership, YALI will among other goals create a Young African Leaders Exchange; a virtual exchange program.

This first pan-African virtual platform will enable Africa Diaspora and other key stakeholders to connect directly with 28,000 YALI alumni from some 49 sub-Saharan countries.

The virtual exchange aims to bring real tangible results in the shape of access to grant and/or internship opportunities.

Health

Working through USAID, the US plans to increase access to health services through coordinated investments meant to boost Africa’s health workforce.

Dubbed Accelerating Primary Health Care Collaborative, the USAID led support will pilot with five countries; Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, and Nigeria.

At the same time, the Transform Health Fund initiative was also unveiled. The USAID will provide $1 million in what is described as the catalytic grant funding and which has already garnered a total $50 million in approved funding commitments.

Peace and Security

Speaking at the opening session of the Civil Society Forum held at the United States Institute for Peace themed  ‘Inclusive Partnerships to Advance Agenda 2063’, Samantha Power, the USAID Administrator reaffirmed US commitment to revitalize global partnerships and alliances across Africa.

In her speech, she underlined the importance of partnerships between civil society and government in ensuring marginalized voices are represented in public life and promoting anti-corruption reforms as well as protecting workers’ rights.

However, while the civil groups’ agenda is on the table, analysts argue that the U.S. is trying to find common ground work parties from either side of the table ‘regardless of their track record’.

“What Washington is trying to do is diversify its relationships,” admits Cameron Hudson, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Hudson noted that the US is not taking sides this time but rather ‘trying to find common ground’ with all parties involved in conflict zones in the continent.

“What we have seen is these countries remain fragile and a strategic partner today could be engulfed in civil war tomorrow.”

Giza Mdoe is an experienced journalist with 10 plus years. He's been a Creative Director on various brand awareness campaigns and a former Copy Editor for some of Tanzania's leading newspapers. He's a graduate with a BA in Journalism from the University of San Jose.

Leave A Reply