U.S. President Joe Biden has committed $55 billion over three years to advance Africa’s economic and human capital development priorities. The announcement came during Biden’s first U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit attended by 49 African leaders and their delegates in Washington, D.C., December 13-15, 2022. The initial summit promised to improve economic development and trade relations, occurring with the signing of several bilateral and public-private agreements to invest $15 billion in new business deals over three years including $690 million for African education and youth leadership programs. These U.S. investments will support business deals between public and private sector companies.
GatesAir, a U.S. innovation over-the-air broadcasting company will invest nearly $40 million with Radio Nacional for Angola to expand FM radio to 95% of Angolans. Cisco Systems in partnership with Cybastion, a diaspora-owned company, agrees to invest $858 million to bolster cybersecurity across the continent. The Millennium Challenge Corporation will provide its first-ever $500 million grant for the Benin-Niger Regional Transport Compact to improve trade corridors in this region.
Biden also signed an Executive Order to create the President’s Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement (PAC-ADE), consisting of representatives from the African American and African Diaspora-immigrant communities. Accordingly, the presidential order was signed “to strengthen the dialogue between U.S. officials and the African Diaspora by elevating engagement through collaboration, partnership, and community building among the U.S., Africa, and other nations globally.”
Ambassador Johnnie Carson, the former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs under President Obama, was appointed by Biden to serve as the Special Presidential Representative for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Implementation.
Biden’s order authorizes Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to establish the entity in the State Department by June 2023. Blinken highlighted the significance of this advisory council by stating, “We can’t solve any of the really big challenges we face if we don’t work together. So, it’s about what we can do with African nations and its people.”
Biden also announced plans to visit Africa in 2023 to see firsthand his administration’s progress following the summit. This will not be his first trip to Africa, as he visited the continent during his tenure as chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations committee.
These unprecedented U.S. government measures have again raised optimism and skepticism among many observers who wonder if the U.S. will fulfill its many promises and commitments to Africa.
THE SUMMIT AND D.C.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser hosted a welcome reception for the summit, where local and federal administration officials, business and nonprofit leaders gathered at the Carnegie Library. Several of the reception attendees shared their perspectives about the summit and its potential outcomes with the Washington Informer.
Andres O. Hayes, D.C. director for International Trade and Commerce, said he believes the “summit can provide more opportunities to establish business partnerships between the District and the eight African countries identified in the D.C. government’s 2022 Africa Strategy.”
Dr. Gloria Bozeman Herndon, president and CEO of GB Herndon and Assoc., believes “that many government bureaucrats lack the expertise to successfully direct the summit’s extensive investment and trade goals for the continent.” She said she would encourage more private sector engagement, especially those diaspora business leaders from the District, to ensure they have a seat at the table and realize the summit’s future benefits.
Daniel Amare, an Ethiopian American and partner with Great America Corp., remains concerned about the U.S. government’s commitment to follow up and provide tangible benefits across the continent. He said the U.S. “has neglected Africa for many years and launched many unsuccessful development initiatives that wasted millions of dollars in which most African people have not realized its benefits.” Amare explained that he hopes that the summit would finally provide meaningful results and not the same old rhetoric that has failed many African nations in the past.
Jeff Banks, a commercial banking vice president, said he will continue “to hope and pray” that the summit’s goals will come to fruition. He said he would like to see “more of USAID’s grant funds be awarded to indigenous African development organizations rather than the big U.S. said grantees” who tend to benefit the most from U.S. development assistance funds. Banks would like the U.S.-Africa Leaders to “adopt more debt forgiveness measures to reduce the financial burden placed on African leaders, many of whom are struggling to uplift their people and economies out of poverty.”
Imam Johari Abdul-Malik Seale, a member of the Mayor’s Interfaith Advisory Council, and Rahim Jenkins, CEO National Center for Juvenile Justice Reform, both applauded Mayor Bowser’s efforts to provide the venue near the convention center where Washingtonians and Africans could network and learn about successful ways to collaborate and build sustainable partnerships. They also support the mayor’s remarks that the U.S.-Africa summit participants should promote more awareness about democratic voting rights in the District of Columbia and African countries.
Jenkins said he hopes the summit will “promote more capacity-building initiatives so local small businesses can partner with their African counterparts.”
The Mayor’s Interfaith Advisory Council member would like to have “more engagement opportunities for District and African youth leaders to promote the summit’s development and trade initiatives.”
Ernest Chrappah, a Ghanaian American and D.C. Public Administrator, congratulated the summit organizers for bringing together people from across America and Africa “to share their ideas that can lead to thoughtful considerations, and more opportunities for direct investment and trade between the U.S. and Africa.”
Chrappah believes that Americans can learn from African entrepreneurs and small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) in countries like Ghana and Kenya where mobile banking solutions, not just cash, are being used for business and philanthropic-related financial transactions that can transform Africa’s traditional banking practices into a modern digital and secure rural and urban financial banking system.
A BRIGHTER FUTURE
The 2022 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit’s success depends upon its leaders and stakeholders steadfast commitment to provide the financial and human capital resources needed to fulfill their promises for a brighter future. A future that builds and sustains mutually beneficial business, investment and people partnerships between the U.S. and Africa.