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Colleen Long, Associated Press
Colleen Long, Associated Press
Aamer Madhani, Associated Press
Aamer Madhani, Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden said Thursday he will soon make a visit to sub-Saharan Africa, announcing bare details of his travel plans as he wrapped up a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit stressing that he’s serious about increasing U.S. attention to the growing continent.
Watch Biden’s remarks in the player above.
Biden said he will also be dispatching many of his top advisers to Africa including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellin and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.
“I’m looking forward to seeing you in your home countries,” Biden said to the leaders.
The visit will be Biden’s first of his presidency to sub-Saharan Africa. He made a brief stop in November in Egypt–which spans across the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia– for an international climate summit. The president did not detail which countries he will visit or exactly when the trip will happen.
In the first two years of his presidency, Biden’s international travel has focused on Asia and Europe, as he has sought to recalibrate his foreign policy to put greater focus on the Indo-Pacific. He has also had to deal with the fallout of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Biden’s Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, did not make it to Africa during his COVID-19 shadowed presidency in which he made no foreign visits during his final 11 months. Trump was the first since Ronald Reagan not to visit the continent during his presidency
Biden on Thursday pledged $165 million in U.S. funding to support peaceful, credible elections in Africa next year as his administration looked to underscore the importance of fair voting in countries where it sometimes has been blighted by violence.
WATCH: Biden tells African leaders the U.S. is ‘all in’ on the continent
The White House announced the elections-funding plan after Biden met on Wednesday with Democratic Republic of the Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba, Liberia President George Manneh Weah, Madagascar President Andry Nirina Rajoelina, Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari and Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio to discuss their countries’ voting in 2023.
The White House said in a statement that Biden, in his meeting with the leaders, reflected on the state of democracy in his own country after last year’s Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. That’s when supporters of then-President Trump violently sought to stop Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 election, which Trump lost to Biden.
“Together the leaders discussed the challenges of holding elections and exercising the right to vote, including foreign interference and political violence, and shared best practices for how to manage these risks and ensure transparency and public confidence in the electoral process,” the White House statement said. “The elections in Africa in 2023 will be consequential.”
Biden on Twitter added that the leaders spoke about “the importance of holding free, fair, and transparent elections, and of working together to strengthen democracy globally.”
The upcoming elections in African nations are seen as important indicators of the strength of democracy across the continent.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with more than 210 million people, is already confronted with violent attacks relating to its election, to be held in February.
Congo is battling an upsurge of rebel violence in its east, which will complicate its efforts to hold elections. Tshisekedi won power in tumultuous elections in that country in 2019, and the upcoming elections, scheduled for Dec. 2023, will be crucial to solidify his rule.
West Africa has had several coups in recent years and Burkina Faso and Mali are currently ruled by military juntas. With this in mind, the elections in Gabon and Sierra Leone will be key markers. Sierra Leone had anti-government demonstrations this year over high inflation and displeasure with President Bio, who was elected in 2018.
READ MORE: U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit opens with focus on youth, security
In Madagascar, with a history marked by coups and disputed elections. President Rajoelina was elected in 2019, replacing rule by a military-backed junta. Rajoelina will be striving to consolidate his rule and the country’s democracy in the elections.
The United States has already provided nearly $50 million in support of civil society and the electoral commissions in Nigeria and Congo.
Senegalese President Macky Sall, the African Union chairman, in remarks at Thursday’s session thanked Biden for his commitment to Africa but said that the continent faces steep challenges–from rising food insecurity to badly needed infrastructure improvements to fend off the scourge of climate change.
He also raised concerns about years-long U.S. sanctions against Zimbabwe for corruption and human rights violations, saying that it was time to lift the penalties so the nation could “fight against poverty and underdevelopment.”
Africa has been disproportionately harmed by the rise of global food prices sparked by Russia’s war on Ukraine. Sall said it was critical to take heed of the “lessons” of the crises of the pandemic and war.
“The time is right to take vigorous action in the field of agriculture and food security,” Sall said.
He added that the African Union expects a “strong commitment and support” from the United States on countering terrorism.
“We wish for the fight against terrorism to be an integral part of the world struggle against thus blight,” he said.
The White House said Biden spoke about the recent U.S. midterm elections, when voters rejected a number of 2020-results-denying candidates, with the president making his case that “the strength and resilience of American democracy was reaffirmed in the process.”
Thousands of Trump supporters descended on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 in a violent insurrection, breaking through police barricades and smashing windows in the building, crying out to hang the vice president.
Trump and his allies also launched roughly 50 lawsuits aimed at overturning vote counts in battleground states. They lost almost every legal battle they waged and Biden was declared the winner.
The White House announced last week Biden’s support for the African Union to become part of the G-20, which is composed of the world’s major industrial and emerging economies and represents more than 80% of the world’s gross domestic product. South Africa is currently the only African member of the G-20. The African Union represents the continent’s 54 countries.
On Wednesday, Biden laid out plans for billions in promised government funding and private investment Wednesday to help the growing continent in health, infrastructure, business and technology. He and first lady Jill Biden also hosted the nation’s leaders and their spouses for a dinner at the White House.
Associated Press reporters Cara Anna in Nairobi, Kenya and Andrew Meldrum in Johannesburg contributed reporting.
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