White House to Host 50 African Leaders in Three-Day Summit

December 9, 2022 by Dan McCue
White House to Host 50 African Leaders in Three-Day Summit
African Union Chairperson Macky Sall, who is also president of Senegal, addresses the 77th session of the General Assembly at United Nations headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

WASHINGTON — The White House will host representatives from 50 African nations at a three-day summit next week intended to “advance shared priorities,” while recognizing that the continent “is a key geopolitical player” that is “shaping the present and will continue to shape the world’s future.”

This year’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, which begins Tuesday, “is a reflection of the U.S. strategy towards sub-Saharan Africa and the African Union’s Agenda 2063,” a senior administration official said during a briefing with reporters on Thursday.

“Among the aims that we hope to achieve at the summit are deepening and expanding the long-term U.S.-Africa partnership; amplifying African voices to collaboratively meet this era’s defining challenges; and leveraging the best of America, including our government, our private sector and civil society, to uplift and empower African institutions, citizens and nations,” the official said.

The agenda the official referred to is a development “blueprint” mutually agreed upon by African Union members that seek to achieve inclusive and sustainable socio-economic development over a 50-year period.

“This is an opportunity for us to listen to and meet African aspirations,” a second senior administration official on the call said.

“We’re really focused on what Africans want for themselves and for our partnership and to have a dialogue about that,” he added.

“With one of the world’s fastest-growing populations, largest free-trade areas, most diverse ecosystems and one of the largest regional voting groups in the United Nations … [Africa] must sit at the table and help us work through some of the most difficult challenges in this consequential decade,” the first official said.

The summit comes four months after the Biden administration finally released its long-awaited Africa policy, “U.S. Strategy Toward sub-Saharan Africa.” 

The main objectives of the new policy are generally in line with what’s essential to the economic development of the continent: foster openness and open societies; deliver democratic and security dividends; advance pandemic recovery and economic opportunity; and support conservation, climate adaptation and a just energy transition.

All 50 invited delegations, representing 49 countries and the African Union, have already confirmed they are coming, though some have yet to confirm who they are sending.

A total of five countries were not invited, the White House said.

Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali and Sudan were excluded because the African Union has suspended them over unconstitutional changes of government.

Eritrea, the fifth uninvited country, won independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year war, but it has been plagued by repression at home and tense relations with its neighbors ever since, and the U.S. has no diplomatic relationship with it.

When it comes to those who are attending the summit, a senior administration official said, “We are committed to expanding and modernizing U.S. partnerships in Africa, working together to find innovative solutions to new and long-standing challenges, harnessing new research and technologies, and investing in long-term sources of strength while meeting immediate needs.”  

He added, “We will focus on what we will do with African nations and people, not for African nations and people.”

The second official agreed, noting that “a robust partnership between the United States and African nations is really vital to achieve our shared priorities.

“It’s about recovering from the pandemic or preparing for future ones by strengthening health systems; creating broad-based economic opportunity both in Africa and the United States; addressing the climate crisis, expanding energy access and a just energy transition; revitalizing democracies; and strengthening the free and open international order,” they said.

While both officials acknowledged that the inroads Russia and China have made on the African continent may come up in the context of the talks, they stressed the administration is sensitive to the fact African governments want to be engaged with on their own terms, not as geopolitical pawns among the great powers.

“This summit is really about the United States’ relationship with the continent,” they said. “It’s not about other countries and their engagement.”

“The United States has a long and enduring partnership with the continent going back to President Kennedy when many African nations gained their independence,” one of the officials said.

As an example, he pointed to the decades of activities and partnerships ranging from the Peace Corps to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and battling the HIV/AIDS crisis on the continent, to enduring cultural and exchange programs, “from Fulbright to the International Visitor Leadership Program.”

“Under President Obama, there was the Young African Leaders Initiative to really speak to the moment in terms of the large demographic youth population and partnering to provide them the skills that they need to be leaders, to be the next generation to lead the continent.

“So we have, both from a governmental perspective but also educational, cultural and historic ties to the continent,” the official said. “So this summit will be an opportunity to celebrate those, to showcase those ties.”

“This summit is rooted in what Africans are asking us to be on the agenda,” the other administration official said. “And uniquely, what we’re also talking about, in general, is the future of our international system.

“We believe it’s a decisive decade, and the way in which the world is going to be ordered is going to be determined in the coming years,” the official said.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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