by Sherri Kolade
On Tuesday, December 13, the first day of a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington D.C., brings Africa leaders and others around the world. Summit attendees listen to speeches and remarks from leaders at the Walter E. Convention Center.
Michigan Chronicle Staff Writer and Real Times Media Writer Sherri Kolade ventured to the nation’s capital for a three-day U.S.-African Leaders Summit, December 13-15. The Summit took place just five minutes from the White House, and addressed food security, economic and technological advancements, and mobilizing youth among many other topics. This three-part series will cover high-level aspects of the summit that hosted 49 African leaders and many U.S. state officials and leaders including President Joe Biden.
With talks of peace in the air during a multi-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington D.C., one couldn’t help but find the juxtaposition of African protestors shouting opposing viewpoints on a busy, barricaded road nearby an interesting contrast on day one of a long-awaited summit aimed to addressing security and stability needs for the powerhouse continent.
On Tuesday, December 13 amidst the throngs of protestors (many denouncing some of the very presidential leaders just a stone’s throw away at a hotel conference space), tensions ran high outside that blistery afternoon, though inside it was a different story altogether.
President Joe Biden invited 49 African countries and the African Union to attend the Summit December 13-15 in the nation’s capital.
On Wednesday, December 14 during one of the summit’s many events held throughout Washington D.C. and live-streamed at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Biden spoke about its convening.
A Long Time Coming
“This forum is about building connections. It’s about closing deals. And above all, it’s about the future, our shared future,” Biden said as hordes of journalists, and political leaders local and abroad watched on. “We’ve known for a long time that Africa’s success and prosperity is essential to ensuring a better future for all of us, not just for Africa.”
The African Union was represented by Moussa FAKI Mahamat, chairperson for the Commission of the African Union as other countries included Algeria, Nigeria, Ghana, Botswana, Central African Republic, Chad, Morocco, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, and many other countries in the continent.
Biden said that when he was vice president, serving with then-President Barack Obama, their administration hosted the first U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, including U.S.-Africa Business Forum.
“We saw so clearly the enormous potential that we could harness if we did it together. And holding the first-of-its-kind summit in 2014 was a watershed moment to cement new kinds of partnerships between our nations, partnerships not to create a political obligation, not — or foster dependence — its dependence, but to spur shared success — I emphasize ‘shared successes’ — and opportunity. Because when Africa succeeds, the United States succeeds; quite frankly, the whole world succeeds as well.”
Eight years later while many things have changed in the world, some things have remained the same – and not for the better as many African countries are facing not only war and instability, economic and infrastructural challenges, and climate issues, but the COVID-19 pandemic, which all need an immediate response.
“Each of these crises has only heightened — heightened the vital role African nations and peoples play to address the global challenges that drive our global progress,” Biden said. “We can’t solve any of these challenges without African leadership at the table — and I’m not trying to be nice; that’s a fact — African ideas and innovation helping to shape the solutions and (the African) population contributing to every step. So the only question when I took office was not if we’d host another U.S.-African Leadership Summit, but when.”
Reclaiming Africa’s Abundance
When is right now as pressing matters of boosting Africa’s economic powers throughout the country need to be addressed so other countries have better footing, also.
Technology-trending global online publisher Visual Capitalist reports that with Africa’s over 50 countries just five have more than half of the total wealth across the continent. While many people are familiar with the primarily stereotypical images of war-torn countries and poverty-stricken areas, that is not the case everywhere. Countries including South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Morocco, and Kenya hold the lion’s share of wealth now roughly equal to $2.1 trillion. For comparison, the United States’ collective wealth dropped by over $6.2 trillion from a whopping $150 trillion in 2021, reuters.com reported.
For African countries who have faced challenges with infrastructural issues such as accessibility, basic transportation, and an internet connection, this summit can bring a sense of relief on what the future could hold from collaboration and synergy.
With his tone etched with optimism, Ugandan reporter David Lumu, of New Vision, told the Michigan Chronicle that he is looking forward to learning more from several Ugandan delegates in attendance who are bringing issues and solutions to the table to prioritize this East African country nestled near Rwanda and Kenya.
“I found it interesting that a number of our leaders on the continent are representing their country and signing deals and forging their way forward for a new Africa nexus,” Lumu said adding that with hope he wants to continue seeing further connections and interest from America. “How will America help Africa overcome such challenges (like the lack of better intercontinental flight connectivity). I should be able to move from Kampala in the morning to Abuja and return in the evening. Why does it take long to fly from Cairo? We need to break those barriers.”
Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel told the Michigan Chronicle that breaking barriers begins with having in-depth conversations along with collaboration on some of the most “pressing global challenges” and opportunities in countries like Uganda.
“It’s also another example of this administration’s work to revitalize our partnerships and our alliances and … over the course of this week we expect to engage a range of African and U.S. stakeholders to illustrate the breadth and the depth of American partnerships with not just African governments but also businesses, civil societies, and citizens.”
Patel added that the unique role of the summit is that it’s addressing not only the core needs of Africa but also sharing how the African diaspora of Black Americans, first, second, third, and other generations of people of African descent can collaborate, too.
“The unique role that (is) this strength of the African diaspora in communities all across the United States is not just in D.C.,” he said adding that they have a critical role in the conversation, too in developing innovative solutions to global challenges in partnership with the African continent. “It’s an opportunity to deepen our partnership with the African continent and it’s an opportunity to focus on efforts in areas where … we believe a partnership with the United States offers a comparative advantage whether that be areas and business partnerships and health … (to) peace and security.”
The ultimate takeaway, Patel adds, is that the strength in numbers is an undeniable fact and a key element to getting measurable results in Africa.
“There’s a lot of issues that we think that we can continue to work and with the African continent within and deepen our partnership here,” he said.
Check back at michiganchronicle.com for Part 2 on youth and the diaspora.
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