By: Pramod Thomas
US vice president Kamala Harris will embark on a tour of three African countries -Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia, this weekend.
During the visit, she will promote the White House’s positive view of Africa as the “future of the world.”
The tour is a part of the Biden administration’s efforts to increase US engagement with Africa, which was largely ignored during the presidency of Republican Donald Trump.
Historically, Africa has been viewed in Washington as a problematic region rather than an area of opportunity.
A senior US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stated that the aim of the tour is to challenge and update outdated notions about living, working, and investing in Africa.
Harris “believes African innovation and ideas will shape the future of the world,” said the official.
The tour is also part of Washington’s pushback against growing Chinese and Russian involvement in the resource-rich continent, with US officials touting what they say is the more positive US message.
“It’s no secret that we are engaged in competition with China very clearly, to compete (with) China in the long term,” a senior US official said. Citing “real concerns” about China’s use of loans to gain control over weak economies in Africa, the official insisted the United States is not trying to copy Beijing’s methods.
“Our relationship with Africa cannot and should not be defined by competition with China,” he said, proclaiming an “affirmative agenda in Africa” that leans on public-private partnerships and transparency.
Preceding Harris, who lands Sunday in Ghana for the first stop, have been trips to Africa by five of President Joe Biden’s cabinet secretaries and First Lady Jill Biden.
The vice president’s journey, which will take her to Tanzania on Wednesday, then Zambia on Friday, has a special poignancy. She is the first Black person and woman ever in the White House number two job and she visited Zambia as a young girl, when her maternal grandfather, who was from India, worked there.
The trip will also help her burnish her foreign policy credentials ahead of what is expected to be Biden’s bid for a second term in office, with her again at his side.
Harris is due to meet with President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, President Samia Hassan of Tanzania and President Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia.
Topics will include debt relief, democracy, economic growth, food security, and impacts of Russia’s war in Ukraine.