Clip: Biden invests in Africa as Chinese and Russian influence loom large there

Dec. 16, 2022 AT 8:46 p.m. EST

President Biden celebrated signing legislation protecting same-sex marriages and interracial marriages. He also held a three-day U.S.-Africa summit focused on investing more in the continent as China and Russia loom large there. The panel takes a look at why the president is focusing on Africa and how Russia's and China’s influence play into the timing.

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Yamiche Alcindor: This week, President Biden celebrated starting legislation protecting same-sex marriages and interracial marriages. He also held a three-day U.S.-Africa summit focused on investing more in the continent, as China and Russia loom large there.

Joe Biden: The people of Africa are indispensable partners. Africa belongs to the table in every room, in every room, where global challenges are being discussed, and in every institution where discussions are taking place.

Yamiche Alcindor: So, Monica, tell us a little bit about the timing of this. Why is president focusing on Africa right now? And how much is Russia and China and their influence on the continent, how is that sort of influencing his thinking here?

Monica Alba: Yes. And the president was quick to say during his remarks this week that he didn't want this to be about strategic competition, but, of course, you can't ignore the fact. And when you are talking about gathering nearly 50 leaders, neither almost 50 heads of state from the continent that came to Washington here for this major summit, it was significant. But this was also something that some African leaders said they have heard this before. They've seen the U.S. try to make this commitment and pledge to invest in Africa and then not having as much follow-through. So, there was some healthy skepticism here, but, ultimately, the Biden administration pledged $55 billion in American spending over the next three years. And one of the other headlines is that the president said that he, the first lady, some major cabinet officials, all will be visiting sub-Saharan Africa at some point in 2023. So, that is significant and President Biden has spent a little bit of the time in Egypt in November. But he hasn't, of course, spent much time there as president in the continent of Africa. So, that will be a major trip to multiple countries. We assume that we don't know when or many other details, but this is something that other past administrations, Democrat and Republican, have before tried to talk about this. But this is in a different context in terms of White House officials I talk to who said, this is also a lot about rebuilding relationships that were damaged during the Trump-era foreign policy, particularly with countries that he insulted in Africa. And so this was as much about restoring that kind of diplomacy as making a pledge in the future, whether it has as much follow-through, as some of these African leaders hoped, we'll see.

Yamiche Alcindor: And, Monica, in the last minute that we have here, could you talk to me a bit about what the White House is saying about the president's own polling numbers. He has had a good couple of weeks here, if you think about Brittney Griner being home, inflation slowing, the big legislation on same-sex marriage, interracial marriages. But the polls show that he is still struggling in a lot of ways in the polls. What are you hearing about that and might that influence his big, seems like, holiday decision to run again?

Monica Alba: He is still underwater, Yamiche. That is absolutely right, though, he has been climbing slightly since October. And there have been a lot of legislative wins and administrative victories that they point too. You mentioned a bunch of them in the last couple of weeks. So, they feel like there is momentum, especially with the midterms that they have been bracing for something a little tougher. They felt like that was really a bit of a turning point. And that in the last couple of weeks, with gas prices lower than they were a year ago, with inflation possibly cooling a bit there, that they do feel that the economy and that outlook is improving as well. All of that will factor in. And we're just learning actually that in the last 24 hours, the White House had a series of meetings with key allies, key groups who would be hugely influential in a potential 2024 campaign, essentially bringing them to the White House and saying, look at our long list of accomplishments. This is what we will likely build a 2024 campaign on. Though, again, the intention is to run. It is not completely official until it's all done. They will huddle over the holidays. And then I think we will learn very early next year what that decision is but --

Yamiche Alcindor: It's a big decision. It is definitely a big decision and one I know you will keep watching and we'll keep learning from you about. So, thank you so much, Monica. Thank you, of course, to all of you. We will have to leave it there. Thank you for showing us and sharing your reporting.


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