50 African nations join as US Africa summit begins

The first U.S.-Africa meeting since 2014 is being attended by over 50 African leaders of the state. Space exploration, democracy, and civil unrest were all covered in the opening sessions. On Tuesday, close to 50 African leaders gathered in Washington to begin three days of discussions on topics important to the future of the continent and the entire globe, such as health, food security, climate change, civil conflicts, and even space exploration.

The first U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit since 2014 is taking place this week, at a time when the whole globe is dealing with serious challenges, some of which are having devastating repercussions on Africa. The food crisis on the continent is being made worse by both the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on the supply chain.

However, according to U.S. officials, they also want to talk about issues that might help the continent in the long run, such as technology and business investments.

At the summit’s opening event, a gathering of what the State Department referred to as “African and diaspora young leaders,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said, “We will be announcing additional investments to make it easier for students to participate in exchange programs between our countries, to increase trade opportunities for members of the African diaspora, and to support African entrepreneurs and small businesses.”

According to Mr Blinken, “each of these investments is driven by one overriding goal: to continue strengthening our cooperation so that we can better handle the difficulties we both confront.”

Meetings on the first day focused on essential issues such as the environment, public health, democratic government, and security. Mr Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, and Samantha Power, head of the US Agency for International Development, convened the governance and security discussion. U.S. trade representative Katherine Tai presided over a ministerial meeting on trade.

With the leaders of Djibouti, Niger, and Somalia in the morning, Mr Austin and Mr Blinken talked about military cooperation. The defining problems of peace, security, and governance of our time still require African leadership, Mr Austin stated.

The first lady, Jill Biden, and the president are slated to welcome the delegation leaders for dinner on Wednesday night. President Biden is planning to deliver addresses on Wednesday and Thursday.

American authorities are worried about instability brought on by famine, climate change, plagues, and conflicts, as well as Chinese and Russian influence on the continent. American leaders claim that they also seek to assist African nations in providing expanding youth populations with economic prospects. The Artemis Accords, an agreement that seeks to create standards for space exploration, was also signed by Nigeria and Rwanda on Tuesday during a symposium on space exploration, making them the first African countries to do so.

The president of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi, stated on Tuesday morning at the Brookings Institution that many African states were suspicious of the goals of the global giants and intended to exercise some influence on those larger nations’ policies.

He stated, “The world has not been very good to Africa. It almost seems as though the colonisation and carving out of Africa took on a new shape without the labels of colonialism — but with a certain amount of conquering. And we’re attempting to disengage from that and interact with them so they can work with us rather than through us.

The White House emphasized in its Africa strategy announced in August the necessity of bolstering democracies on the continent and assisting them in providing for their population to support stability. In a lecture on the policy that he gave in South Africa before travelling to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, Mr Blinken highlighted the same points.

Anti-corruption initiatives and support for independent journalists have been part of the Biden administration’s attempts to advance democracy. The American administration made arrangements for 25 African journalists to attend the meeting.

The African Union and leaders of 49 other countries were invited. Four countries—Mali, Sudan, Guinea, and Burkina Faso—whose presidents the African Union has barred from membership due to previous coups were not invited by American authorities.

In a press conference with reporters, Molly Phee, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said: “We continue to work separately with those countries to encourage a return to a democratic transition, to move to a democratic track, so we’re in a better position to have a strong partnership with those countries.”

The first day of meetings at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit centered on critical topics including the environment, public health, democratic governance and security. Photo: NYTimes/Kevin Dietsch

Tuesday afternoon, Mr Blinken met separately with Félix Tshisekedi, president of the Congo, and Abiy Ahmed, the prime minister of Ethiopia.

For American authorities, Mr Abiy is a particularly challenging figure. He was recognised as a worldwide hero when he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for bringing peace to nearby Eritrea after years of conflict. But last year, officials in the Biden administration watched in worry as Mr Abiy’s forces brutally put down a rising uprising by the nation’s ethnic Tigray population.

In his testimony from March 2021, Mr Blinken claimed that “atrocities” and “ethnic cleansing” had been carried out by Ethiopian government forces. The second-most populous nation in Africa after Nigeria, according to U.S. authorities, may devolve into deadly chaos.

But Mr Abiy showed up for his highest-level meeting with the Biden administration weeks after agreeing to a cease-fire with the rebel leaders of Tigray, which has put an end to the two-year civil war in the nation—at least for the time being.

In a meeting with Mr Abiy on Tuesday, Mr Blinken informed him that his country was facing a “historic moment” to bring about long-lasting peace.

Additionally, the United States is negotiating complex issues with Congo. When Mr Blinken travelled to Kinshasa, the country’s capital, in August, he voiced his worries to Mr Tshisekedi and other officials regarding the civil conflict in the country’s east, which involves several neighbouring countries, as well as the country’s plan to auction off sizable tracts of rainforest and peatland for the extraction of oil and gas. The two nations decided to establish a working committee to evaluate the proposal and its potential environmental effects.

Another reason why Mr Biden’s climate change strategy is significant is that Congo is the world’s top producer of cobalt, a crucial component of batteries used in electric vehicles. However, American authorities are worried about the country’s mining practices and the increasing influence of Chinese firms in the sector.

Tuesday afternoon, Mr Blinken oversaw the signing of an agreement with representatives from the Congo and Zambia in which the US promised to establish an “electric vehicle battery council” with those two countries to evaluate supply chains and investment mechanisms.

The foreign minister of Congo, Christophe Lutundula, stated that his nation was attempting to “contribute with our natural resources and critical minerals to the common management of the fate and future of the globe in this day and age with climate change.”

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Olivier Noudjalbaye Dedingar

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