African leaders, President Biden set to meet

The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, scheduled for next month, will be the first head of state gathering of African leaders and a U.S. president since 2014.

It marks only the second time Washington has accorded this level of attention to a partnership dialogue with the region.

“I look forward to working with African governments, civil society, diaspora communities across the United States, and the private sector to continue strengthening our shared vision for the future of U.S.-Africa relations,” United States President Joe Biden said in a released statement.

Though the United States has an annual trade forum through the African Growth and Opportunity Act, convening trade ministers and a number of bilateral strategic dialogues with key country partners at the foreign minister level, these gatherings do not confer presidential-level priority.

The hope now is that the summit, December 13-15, will usher in more consistent head-of-state engagement, treat Africa as a strategic priority for the United States and give a dynamic boost to mutually beneficial U.S. engagement on the continent.

U.S. Department of State

“With one of the world’s fastest-growing populations, largest free trade area, most diverse ecosystems, and one of the largest regional voting groups in the United Nations, African contributions, partnerships, and leadership are essential to meeting this era’s defining challenges,” said Dana Banks, who works in the Biden administration as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Africa at the National Security Council.

The summit is rooted in the recognition that Africa is a key geopolitical player, one that is shaping our present and will shape our future.

“President Biden has invited 49 African heads of state and the head of the AU to Washington for a three-day summit to really highlight how the U.S. and African nations are strengthening our partnerships to advance our shared priorities,” Banks shared during a recently held press briefing.

“The summit reflects the U.S. strategy towards Sub-Saharan Africa, which really emphasizes the critical importance of the region in meeting this era’s defining challenges.”

Trade Law Centre NPC (tralac)

The African continent is home to approximately 1.3 billion people, with an estimated population growth rate of 2.7 percent—more than double that of South Asia (1.2 percent) and triple that of Latin America (0.9 percent).

The United Nations projects that by 2050, Africa’s population will nearly double to 2.5 billion people, and by 2100 triple to 3.8 billion.

These numbers are even more significant in light of the 2020 Lancet study that predicts every other region could see its population decline during this same period.

“President Biden believes that U.S. collaboration with African leaders as well as civil society, business, diaspora, women and youth leaders, is essential to tackling these shared challenges while seizing opportunities, including increasing sustainable food production; strengthening health systems and combating the COVID-19 pandemic while we prepare for future pandemics; responding to the escalating climate crisis; building a strong and inclusive global economy while providing life-saving humanitarian assistance; and strengthening global democratic norms, institutions, and the rule of law,” said Banks.

The continent’s dynamic economies and populations provide the foundation for a bright future for the continent and the United States.

Taking place primarily at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., the U.S.-Africa Business Forum (USABF), a core pillar of the Summit will bring together business and government leaders to advance mutually beneficial partnerships to create jobs and drive inclusive and sustainable growth on both sides of the Atlantic.

Additional official Summit events will occur at several other venues across the Washington D.C. area.

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) are partnering with the U.S. Department of Commerce to host the U.S.-Africa Business Forum,” said Scott Eisner, President of the U.S.-Africa Business Center and Senior Vice President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Prosper Africa, a unique initiative of government agencies working together to connect U.S. and African companies to commercial opportunities, will host a Deal Room as part of the Forum.”

Prosper Africa brings together services from across the U.S. Government to help companies and investors do business in U.S. and African markets.

“The USABF will serve as the Summit’s flagship private sector dialogue, convening U.S. and African business leaders, African Heads of State, and African regional institutions to explore how best to strengthen economic relations between the United States and the nations of Africa,” said Eisner.

Former US President Barack Obama delivers opening remarks at the first US-Africa Leaders Summit Session One on ‘Investing in Africa’s Future,’ at the U.S. State Department in Washington August 6, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/The Africa Report

“This year, the United States can demonstrate a commitment to meaningful partnership with the nations of Africa through a summit that sets the tone and cadence for regular heads-of-state dialogue with our African partners on our shared priorities and opportunities,” said Kendra L. Gaither, Vice President for the U.S.-Africa Business Center.

“The president can make good on the commitment to reset relations and build back better by engaging the business community to play a significant role as part of a more holistic engagement of the continent, akin to other global summit dialogues,” said Gaither, who also serves as Executive Director for the Coalition for the Rule of Law in Global Markets at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“Doing so can ensure that the United States is a partner today in the continent’s structural transformation under the Africa Union’s Agenda 2063, and is positioned to be a partner in Africa’s emergence tomorrow,” said Gaither.

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