Seeking to compete with China, Biden assures US support to Africa at leadership summit

by the associated press: President Joe Biden told dozens of African leaders gathered in Washington that the United States is “absolutely dependent on the future of Africa”, pledging on Wednesday to help the growing continent in health, infrastructure, trade and technology. Is spending billions in funding and private investment.

“The United States is committed to supporting every aspect of Africa’s development,” Biden told leaders and others in a large conference hall as he laid out his vision for the three-day US-Africa Leaders Summit.

Biden, who is projecting America as a reliable partner to drive Democratic elections and advance critical health and energy development, announced to the crowd $55 billion in committed investments over the next three years — Monday declared to – “was just the beginning.”

He announced more than $15 billion in private trade and investment commitments and partnerships.

“There’s a lot we can do together and we will do it together,” Biden said.

After his speech, the President spent some time with leaders, including Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhnouch, who was watching Morocco’s World Cup match with France. Morocco lost but made history as the first African team to advance to the semi-final round of the tournament.

Read this also | Joe Biden reached out to PM Modi for a warm hug at the G20 summit. watch

The United States lags far behind China in investing in sub-Saharan Africa, which has become a key battleground in the growing competition between major powers. The White House says this week’s gathering is more a listening session with African leaders than an attempt to counter Beijing’s influence, but the president’s central foreign policy principle dominates all: America is there to prove. is in an era-defining battle that democracy can overcome autocracy. ,

That message was clear in Wednesday’s events. In his speech, Biden spoke about how America is leading the way across the continent in modernizing technology, providing clean energy, advancing women’s equality through business opportunities, bringing clean drinking water to communities, and better funding for health care. will help. First Lady Jill Biden’s office also committed $300 million to cancer prevention, detection, treatment and research in Africa.

On Wednesday, Biden also held a short meeting at the White House with the leaders of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Liberia, Madagascar, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Thursday is to be devoted to high-level discussions between the leaders; Biden will begin the day with a session on partnership with the African Union’s strategic vision for the continent.

The President and First Lady hosted a White House dinner for all the leaders and their spouses on Wednesday night, with a meal prepared by Mashma Bailey, executive chef of The Grey’s, a Southern cooking spot in Savannah, Georgia. Gladys Knight provided the after-dinner entertainment.

Biden noted the “original sin” of enslaved Africans brought to American shores in a toast at the start of the dinner and paid tribute to the next generation of leaders in both the US and sub-Saharan Africa.

“Together in all of our countries, especially for our young people, we can deliver a world that is healthier and safer, more equal, more just, more prosperous and full of opportunity for all,” Biden said. “

Read this also | Will support my friend PM Modi during India’s G20 presidency: US President Joe Biden

President Macky Sall of Senegal, who also heads the African Union bloc, expressed hope in his own toast that the US and African leaders could advance their partnership “to the next level”.

The summit is the largest international gathering in Washington since the start of the pandemic. Roads around the city center were blocked, and motorcade convoys zoomed by gridlocked traffic elsewhere, carrying the 49 invited heads of state and other leaders.

Many leaders of the continent’s 54 countries often feel undervalued by the major economies. But the continent remains important to global powers because of its rapidly growing population, significant natural resources and sizable voting bloc in the United Nations. Africa also remains of strategic importance as the US recalibrates its foreign policy with a greater focus on China – the nation that the Biden administration views as the United States’ most important economic and military adversary.

But Biden invited a number of leaders who have questionable records on human rights, and democracy swelled.

Equatorial Guinea was invited despite the State Department stating “serious doubts” about last month’s election in the small Central African country. Election officials reported that the ruling party of President Teodoro Obiang won about 95% of the vote.

Zimbabwe, which has faced US and Western sanctions for years, was also invited.

Tunisian President Kais Saied, who has been criticized by the United States for democratic backsliding, used an appearance before reporters with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday to call for measures including suspending parliament and sacking judges. Strongly defended the action taken by him.

Said Said, “The country was on the brink of civil war throughout the country, so I had no choice but to save the Tunisian nation from doing any bad things.”

Biden made no mention of China in his remarks, and White House officials rejected the notion that the summit was about countering China’s influence.

Read this also | Biden signs law protecting gay marriages, calls it ‘blowback against hate’

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the administration is “refuses to put a gun to Africa’s head” and force it to choose between the US and China. At the same time, he said “there is nothing inconsistent about calling a fact a fact and highlighting what is abundantly clear to our African partners about China’s malign influence on the continent.”

Nevertheless, summit-related activity increased from China. Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that the US should “respect the will of the African people and take concrete actions to help Africa develop, instead of constantly attacking other countries.”

Wang told a briefing on Wednesday that it was “the general responsibility of the international community to support Africa’s development.” But he added: “Africa is not the target of great power confrontation or arbitrary pressure by a few countries or individuals.”

Rwandan President Paul Kagame also fumed at the idea of ​​his country and others on the continent being caught between the US and China. “I don’t think we need to bully to choose between the US and China,” Kagame said during an event on the sidelines of the summit organized by news organization Semaphore.

Biden has pledged US support for a 20-seat permanent grouping for the African Union and the appointment of a special representative to implement summit commitments.

Apart from China, the talks also highlighted what the US sees as malicious Russian actions on the continent.

Read this also | White supremacy, hate violence have no place in America: President Joe Biden

The administration argued in its sub-Saharan strategy published earlier this year that Russia, the leading arms dealer in Africa, views the continent as a permissive environment for Kremlin-linked oligarchs and private military companies seeking to build their own Let’s focus on volatility for strategic and financial. Benefit.

During an appearance with Blinken on Wednesday, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo expressed concern about the presence of mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group in Burkina Faso, directly north of Ghana. This follows a similar deployment of Wagner forces in Burkina Faso’s immediate neighbor Mali.

“Today, Russian mercenaries are on our northern border,” Akufo-Addo said, adding that he believed Burkinabé authorities had given control of the mine to the Wagner Group for payment and that the country’s prime minister had recently Recently visited Moscow.