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First-hand Account of American Businesswoman at US-Africa Leaders’ Summit

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

President Joe Biden has told 49 African leaders and heads of the African Union who assembled in Washington for the second US-Africa Leaders Summit that the United States is raising its relations and renewing a resonating commitment towards improving developments on the continent.

In his speech, Biden referred to the fact that the United States is a reliable partner and offered $55 billion in commitment for investments over the next three years and more than $15 billion for private trade and investment partnerships.

Biden said a new agreement with the African Continental Free Trade Area would give American companies access to 1.3 billion people and a market valued at $3.4 trillion. He listed companies that had made deals at the summit, including General Electric Co and Cisco Systems Inc.

Biden hailed projects from American companies, including a collaboration between Microsoft Corp. and Viasat Inc. to bring internet access to 5 million Africans. Microsoft aims to bring access to 100 million people across the continent by the end of 2025. Cisco is working with the Biden administration to train 3 million more technology workers in Africa over the next 10 years.

“The United States is all-in on Africa’s future,” Biden said on economic ties between the U.S. and Africa that included CEOs from more than 300 American and African companies.

Biden talked about new trade opportunities and investments in Africa – which is currently experiencing geopolitical rivalry and competition for political and economic influence. “When Africa succeeds, the United States succeeds. Quite frankly, the whole world succeeds as well,” the president said.

He said the United States would also invest in African infrastructure, citing what he called the first-ever regional transport compact from the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which would invest $500 million to build and maintain roads and implement policies to reduce transportation costs. Biden said he expected the MCC to commit an additional $2.5 billion in Africa over the next three years.

He announced a memorandum of understanding with Africa on free trade security in order to unlock new opportunities for trade, as well as investments in infrastructure to facilitate trade within Africa.

In addition, Biden announced that the U.S. would invest $350 million to facilitate Africa’s participation in the digital economy and the International Development Finance Corporation will invest nearly $370 million for new projects.

“Improving Africa’s infrastructure is essential to our vision of building a stronger global economy that can better withstand the kinds of shocks that we’ve seen the past few years,” he said.

Earlier during a dinner in honour of the African guests, Biden, in a toast, spoke about the need for African nations and the United States to work together to address global challenges.

“I’ve never been more optimistic about our shared future,” Biden said. “Together, we can deliver a world that is healthier and safer, more equal, juster, more prosperous and more filled with opportunity for everyone.”

Senegalese President Macky Sall, who is also chairman of the African Union, told Biden that “Africa wants to advance the common agenda with you and take the partnership to the next level in an inclusive approach, bringing together governments, the private sector, civil society and the African diaspora.”

Topping U.S. commitments, Biden pledged $55 billion in financial aid over the next three years. The money will go to “a wide range of sectors to tackle the core challenges of our time” and is being distributed in close partnership with Congress.

Here is what the White House has said so far about where the $55 billion will go: On Health, the Biden-Harris administration has invested and committed to providing nearly $20 billion in health programs in the African region, the White House said.

That includes $11.5 billion to address HIV/AIDS; more than $2 billion to combat malaria; more than $2 billion in support of family planning and reproductive health as well as maternal and child health; and more than $2 billion to address the health, humanitarian, and economic impacts of COVID-19.

The administration also plans to ask Congress for $4 billion for healthcare workers in Africa, investing $1.33 billion annually from 2022 to 2024.

Relating to Climate Change: Since January 2021, the administration has invested and plans to provide at least $1.1 billion to support African-led efforts to support conservation, climate adaptation, and energy transitions.

These funds include U.S. International Development Finance Corporation investments into Malawi’s Golomoti JCM Solar Corporation and a Climate Action Infrastructure Facility.

And on Trade: In another development, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai has signed a memorandum of understanding with the African Continental Free Trade Area aims at exploring work on the next phases of the U.S.-African trade relationship. United States sees enormous opportunities to improve the longstanding African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) system of trade preferences, which is due to expire in 2025.

“The world that we’re living in today certainly has been transformed by significant events that we have experienced since 2015, the last time the program was reauthorized,” Tai noted during a meeting of trade ministers from Sub-Saharan Africa to discuss AGOA as part of a U.S.-Africa summit in Washington. “We’ve consistently seen that there are opportunities for the program to be better; there could be much better uptake and utilization of the program.”

AGOA offered promise as a “stepping stone to address regional and global challenges,”, especially with Africa’s young and entrepreneurial population, she said. “The future is Africa, and engaging with this continent is the key to prosperity for all of us.”

During the summit, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. government is investing in infrastructure to foster African innovation to create a free flow of ideas, information, and investment for entrepreneurs. For instance, U.S. Development Finance Corporation is investing $300 million in building data centres across the continent.

Questions concerning Young entrepreneurs: the United States is investing in raising leaders through the Young African Leaders Initiative and Mandela Washington Fellows. In addition, last September 2022, the U.S. African Development Foundation partnered with the Tony Elumelu Foundation to create a new program to provide financing, technical assistance, and mentorship to emerging innovators in Africa.

Quite recently, America also launched an initiative to connect up-and-coming climate entrepreneurs with American companies and also to promote greater encouragement by American companies in Africa.

“U.S. private sector already invests more than $4 in Africa for every dollar our government allocates to the region in foreign assistance – and it wants to do more. That’s the objective of our Office of Global Partnerships, which will take a U.S. private sector delegation to Ghana in February,” added Blinken.

The summit was the largest international gathering in Washington since the coronavirus pandemic. The first U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit was held in 2014 during the time of Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States, from 2009 to 2017.

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