President Biden emphasized the United States’ commitment to Africa on Wednesday, promising nearly 50 African leaders that America will make investments for the long-term benefits of the continent.
“The United States is all in on Africa’s future,” Mr. Biden proclaimed during the U.S-Africa Leaders Summit, the first one since 2014.
“When Africa succeeds, the United States succeeds, and frankly, the whole world succeeds,” he continued.
The gathering focused on critical issues plaguing Africa, including a food shortage worsened by Russia’s war with Ukraine, climate change issues, and supply chain problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Inflation also remains a significant problem in Africa as soaring goods and energy prices may cause a few African nations to default next year, exacerbating poverty in some countries.
Mr. Biden said it’s critical for the U.S. to strengthen its ties with African nations to address the continent’s challenges but also to build security partnerships.
“We can’t solve any of these challenges without African leadership at the table and I’m not trying to be nice; that’s a fact,” he said.
While the U.S. ignored Africa under the Trump administration, Russia and China made inroads on the continent. China has bolstered its trade relations with African nations and built infrastructure projects there. Russia has expanded its military presence in the region. Both have hosted their own African summits in recent years.
After his speech, Mr. Biden was set to host a small group of African leaders at the White House to discuss the 2023 elections across the continent. Later Wednesday, Mr. Biden will host leaders and their spouses for a dinner at the White House.
During his remarks, Mr. Biden announced a $350 billion investment from the U.S. to ensure people across Africa can participate in the digital economy. Mr. Biden offered few details about the investment beyond saying that he will ask Congress to secure funding and it will involve both federal and private sector partnerships.
Mr. Biden also announced that Cisco Systems will spend $800 million in new contracts to protect Africa from cyber threats. Although Mr. Biden didn’t say it, the move is likely a way for the U.S. to counter the dominance of Chinese firms that produce most of the computers and cell phones used in Africa.
Mr. Biden also announced his support for the African Continental Free Trade Area, an agreement brokered by several African nations to enhance economic partnerships in the region. Formed in 2018, the pact has struggled to take hold in the region.
The remarks by Mr. Biden echoed several of the pledges made by President Obama at his own African summit in 2014 in which he also pledged the U.S. would be more active to encourage prosperity and security in the region.