Biden told the leaders that the US is “all in” for Africa | Daily News Byte

Biden told the leaders that the US is “all in” for Africa

 | Daily News Byte

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US President Joe Biden on Thursday backed a greater role for Africa in the world, as he also pledged to champion democracy on a continent where China and Russia enjoy growing influence.

“The United States is all for Africa and all for Africa,” Biden told nearly 50 African leaders who spent three days at a winter summit in Washington that included a gala dinner at the White House.

“Africa belongs at the table in every room — every room for global challenges being discussed,” Biden said.

Biden, who in September called for an African permanent seat on the UN Security Council, backed a permanent role for the African Union in the Group of 20 economies and said he was planning a visit — the first by a US president since 2015 — to sub-Saharan Africa.

The summit is the first of its kind since African leaders came in 2014 to see Barack Obama, whose successor Donald Trump made no secret of his lack of interest in Africa.

China has eclipsed the United States as an investor in the past decade, and Russia has in recent years sent mercenaries and sought diplomatic support against Western pressure.

Biden announced new $2.5 billion in food aid as rising prices lead to hunger across the continent, especially in the drought-stricken Horn.

“Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine has disrupted food and energy supplies affecting all of our economies,” Vice President Kamala Harris said at the luncheon.

She told African leaders that “international rules and norms are under threat — for example, sovereignty and territorial integrity, unhindered trade and peaceful settlement of disputes.”

The Biden administration has been more veiled in its criticism of China, which has invested in high-profile infrastructure projects and lent more than $120 billion across the continent since the turn of the century.

At the summit, the United States committed $55 billion to projects over the next three years, including green energy, training health workers and modernizing Internet networks, and the private sector also pledged $15 billion in technology investments.

Unlike China, which has been happy to do business with all African regimes, the United States has emphasized democracy, even if Biden has continued to call out leaders seen as authoritarian.

“The United States will always lead with our values,” Biden told African leaders.

“Support for democracy, respect for the rule of law, commitment to human rights, responsible government, it’s all part of our DNA.”

Biden, announcing $100 million for security, also said the United States would invest $75 million in countering “democratic backsliding,” including strengthening electoral authorities and civil society.

On Wednesday, Biden met with the leaders of six countries holding elections next year, including Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, sub-Saharan Africa’s largest country by population and size, to seek promises of free elections.

Mark Green, a former congressman and head of the US Agency for International Development, said the United States is focused on building self-reliance in Africa, while China wants to “increase dependence on aid”.

“If Chinese investment in Africa leads to more confidence, someone in Beijing is going to lose their job,” said Green, now president of the Wilson Center.

China denies US accusations that it is putting developing countries in a “debt trap” and in turn has urged Washington not to see Africa through the lens of geopolitical competition.

African leaders generally welcomed the summit. But the continent was also unwilling to side with the great powers.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking to reporters at the end of the summit, said: “America will not dictate Africa’s choice.” Neither should anyone else.”

Senegalese President Macky Sall, current chairman of the African Union, welcomed US support for the institution and expressed gratitude for Biden’s summit.

But he also called on the United States to end longstanding human rights sanctions on Zimbabwe and expressed alarm at a bill in the US Congress that would impose sanctions on African countries over their relations with Russia.

“This would be the first time in international relations that an entire continent is being targeted,” Sall said.

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