This week, nearly 50 African leaders and delegates are in Washington, DC., for the US-Africa Leaders Summit. President Biden is hosting this important three-day summit, which is the centerpiece of a significant effort to reset and improve US relations with African countries where China and Russia are also working to expand their influence.
On December 13, the summit began with a focus on the critical role of civil society and the strength of African diaspora communities in the United States. It included sessions on everything from trade and investment to health and climate change, peace, security, governance, and space cooperation.
Globally, the continent has become one of the world’s most vital regions, with the fastest-growing population in the last decade. Africa will be home to one-quarter of the world’s projected 9.5 billion people, up from 10% in 1950.
“Africa will shape the future — not just the future of the African people, but of the world. Africa will make the difference in tackling the most urgent challenges and seizing the opportunities we all face,” reads part of the U.S. State Department description of the summit.
With day two underway in the nation’s capital, here are some key points to understanding the issues at stake.
Why Is The Summit Important?
The meeting, which comes nearly two years into Biden’s presidency, will focus on critical issues for the continent’s future, such as climate change, public health, and food security. The Biden administration has announced plans to invest $55 billion in Africa’s economy, security, and health over the next three years. It will also appoint a new special envoy to focus on these issues. Biden is also expected to announce plans to visit the continent – he hasn’t been to Sub-Saharan Africa since taking office. He will also name a new special representative to oversee the summit’s commitments. While nations like China, Russia, and the European Union have hosted similar gatherings of African diplomats, businesspeople, and civil society organizations, this is only the second summit the United States hosted in the last eight years. President Barack Obama inaugurated the meeting in 2014. Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, largely ignored Africa, never visiting the continent and even disparaging certain African nations as “shithole countries” during a meeting in 2018.
What Are Some Of The Expected Highlights?
On Wednesday, Biden will speak at the US-Africa Business Forum. Then, according to national security adviser Jake Sullivan, he will host a small gathering of African leaders at the White House “for a discussion on forthcoming presidential elections in Africa in 2023 and US support for free, fair, and credible polls across the continent.” Following recent coups, four nations’ leaders were excluded from the summit invite list. But otherwise, all of the continents’ countries will be represented, including some with dire human rights records. On Wednesday evening, Biden will host the dozens of leaders and their spouses for dinner at the White House, Bloomberg reports. Thursday’s program, which is the closing day, will feature a discussion on food security and food systems resilience in Africa. According to senior administration officials, the goal is to build more robust ties with African nations to address the significant challenges the continent faces and cultivate beneficial economic and security partnerships.
What Are The Goals Of The Summit?
Improving trade will be a priority, with many African countries seeking to renew and expand the United States African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which expires in 2025. Under certain conditions, the act allows access to the US market and has become essential to economic growth in some African countries. In a series of briefings, US officials stated that the administration would seek new trade opportunities and closer cooperation in combating terrorism and strengthening democracy. But they provided few details on what signature goals they hoped to achieve. Whether the summit produces any significant policy outcomes remains to be seen.