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Teresa Cebrian Aranda
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Vice President Kamala Harris is in Africa this week for a three-country tour focused on economic development and security. Over nine days, she’ll meet with leaders in Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia. Her travel follows other high-level trips to the continent as pressure to counter Chinese influence in the region grows. Laura Barrón-López reports on the trip's historic and strategic significance.
Vice President Kamala Harris is in Africa this week for a three-country tour focused on economic development and security. Over nine days, she will meet with political leaders in Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia.
Her travel follows other trips by senior officials to the continent, as pressure to counter Chinese influence in the region grows.
Laura Barrón-López reports on the trip's historic and strategic significance for America's.
For America's first Black female vice president, a trip with deep political and personal meaning, Kamala Harris placing flowers in a women's dungeon at the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana and walking through the Door of No Return, where millions of Africans were forced in chains on to ships bound for the America's.
Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States: So being here was was — was immensely powerful and moving.
Speaking off-script about the brutality of slavery, Harris challenged growing efforts back home to censor Black history.
It cannot be denied. It must be taught. History must be learned.
A solemn moment to recognize the past during a visit Harris says is focused on the future, specifically for women and young people.
To witness firsthand the extraordinary innovation and creativity that is occurring on this continent.
On the fastest growing and youngest continent, Harris met with young artists at a skate park and recording studio.
You're speaking in a way that, around the globe, people hear songs that are moving concepts like freedom.
Joining her were actors Idris Elba and Sheryl Lee Ralph together to highlight the power of music to unite the global African diaspora.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
Harris' trip follows the African Leader Summit held in Washington last year.
Joe Biden, President of the United States: The United States is all in on Africa and all in with Africa.
Since then, she is the fifth high-ranking administration official to visit the continent in a sweeping effort to strengthen relationships in a part of the world where Chinese influence runs deep.
China has poured billions into infrastructure and development projects across Africa, including a $2 billion deal in Ghana to build roads and bridges. On this trip, Harris announced $100 million in security and conflict prevention assistance for the Western coast, but said the goal wasn't to counter China.
This trip is motivated I the importance of the direct relationship between the United States and Ghana.
And Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo made clear he would work with both nations.
Nana Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana: There may be an obsession in America about the Chinese activities over the continent, but there's no such obsession here. But China is one of the many countries with whom Ghana is engaged in the world. Your country is one of them. Virtually all the countries in the world are friends with Ghana.
The vice president is expected to announce additional investments later this week to empower women-run businesses, enhance food security, and promote climate resilience.
In Ghana, a model of democracy in the region, Harris said the two countries must continually work to preserve freedom. The vice president will also travel to Zambia, a place where her grandfather lived and where she spent time as a child.
And, Laura, there's so much symbolism wrapped up in this weeklong trip.
There are multiple audiences both abroad and here at home. What is the White House hoping to achieve?
At its core, they're hoping that the vice president really uses her ability to strengthen ties with Africa, that they talk a lot about the historical significance of her going there.
But one personal political thing that she is also working on is gaining foreign policy experience. She's met with more than 100 foreign leaders so far as vice president. This comes after her big trip to the Munich Security Conference. And this is showing that she's very much a part of the Biden reelection plan.
The vice president's office has been, I think, fairly aggressive and intentional about owning and trying to reshape public perceptions of her and how she's handling the job.
How can we look at the trip in that context?
Well, like President Biden, Vice President Harris has an uphill climb right now with the public, with voters.
There's a recent Monmouth poll that shows Harris' approval rating is at 36 percent and her disapproval rating is at 53 percent. But I spoke to multiple sources that are close to Harris, and they argue that she is really key to the president's reelection, that Democrats are starting to rally around her and say that the backbiting needs to stop.
And they have really warned other Democrats that, if she were to somehow be set aside, that there would be a swift backlash. One thing that they also stress is that, for the first year-and-a-half of the administration, there was a lot of — there very little time spent out on the trail.
Now Harris has recently traveled to Tallahassee, Florida, on abortion rights, traveled to Iowa — it was her first trip to the state this year — on abortion rights, and that's a big focus for her.
I was really struck by the fact that the vice president was not on this trip alone. She was surrounded by friends, allies, celebrities.
What was the idea behind that?
So this was actually her idea, according to the sources that I spoke to today that are close to her. She wanted all those celebrities, including Spike Lee, the film director, the president of the NAACP, the president of the Urban League, as well as a number of HBCU presidents there with her, because they said that, look, they understand that Harris doesn't always get all the press that they want her to get, that the vice president alone may not be able to create this echo chamber.
And they also said that bringing those people along, they bring their own resources and investments to the continent to really stress the importance of these ties with Africa that the administration is focusing on.
A bit of a signal boost on this historic trip.
Laura Barrón-López, thanks so much for that reporting.
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Laura Barrón-López is the White House Correspondent for the PBS NewsHour, where she covers the Biden administration for the nightly news broadcast. She is also a CNN political analyst.
Tess Conciatori is a politics production assistant at PBS NewsHour.
Zeba Warsi is Foreign affairs producer, based in Washington DC. She's a Columbia Journalism School graduate with an M.A. in Political journalism. Prior to the NewsHour, she was based in New Delhi for seven years, covering politics, extremism, sexual violence, social movements and human rights as a special correspondent with CNN's India affiliate CNN-News18.
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