Biden says he plans to visit sub-Saharan Africa soon

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden said Thursday he will soon visit sub-Saharan Africa and announced basic details of his travel plans at the conclusion of a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, stressing he is serious about increasing the America’s attention to the growing continent.

Biden said he will also send many of his top advisers to Africa, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellin and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

“I look forward to seeing you in your home countries,” Biden told the leaders.

The visit will be the first by Biden in his presidency to sub-Saharan Africa. He made a brief stop in November in Egypt, which straddles the northeast corner of Africa and the southwest corner of Asia, for an international climate summit. The president did not detail which countries he will visit or when exactly the trip will take place.

In the first two years of his presidency, Biden’s international travels have focused on Asia and Europe as he has tried to recalibrate his foreign policy to focus more on the Indo-Pacific. He too has had to deal with the aftermath of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.

Biden’s Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, did not come to Africa during his bleak COVID-19 presidency in which he made no foreign visits for his last 11 months. Trump was the first since Ronald Reagan not to visit the continent during his presidency

Biden on Thursday pledged $165 million in US funding to support peaceful and credible elections in Africa next year, as his administration sought to underscore the importance of fair voting in countries where it has sometimes been plagued by violence.

The White House announced the election financing plan after Biden met on Wednesday with the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Felix Tshisekedi, the President of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba, the President of Liberia, George Manneh Weah, the president of Madagascar, Andry Nirina Rajoelina, the president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, and the president of Sierra Leone. Julius Maada Bio to discuss their countries’ vote in 2023.

The White House said in a statement that Biden, in his meeting with leaders, reflected on the state of democracy in his own country after the January 6 attack on the US Capitol last year. That’s when supporters of then-President Trump violently tried to stop Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 election, which Trump lost to Biden.

“Together, the leaders discussed the challenges of holding elections and exercising the right to vote, including foreign interference and political violence, and shared best practices on how to manage these risks and ensure transparency and public trust in the electoral process.” , the White House statement. said. “The elections in Africa in 2023 will be consequential.”

Biden added on Twitter that the leaders spoke about “the importance of holding free, fair and transparent elections and working together to strengthen democracy globally.”

Upcoming elections in African nations are seen as important indicators of the strength of democracy across the continent.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with more than 210 million people, is already facing violent attacks in connection with its elections, due to be held in February.

Congo is battling a rise in rebel violence in the east, which will complicate its efforts to hold elections. Tshisekedi won power in tumultuous elections in that country in 2019, and the next elections, scheduled for December 2023, will be crucial to consolidating his rule.

West Africa has had several coups in recent years, and Burkina Faso and Mali are currently ruled by military juntas. With this in mind, the elections in Gabon and Sierra Leone will be key milestones. Sierra Leone had anti-government protests this year over high inflation and discontent with President Bio, who was elected in 2018.

In Madagascar, with a history marked by coups and disputed elections. President Rajoelina was elected in 2019, replacing the government with a military-backed junta. Rajoelina will strive to consolidate his government and the country’s democracy in the elections.

The United States has already provided nearly $50 million in support to civil society and electoral commissions in Nigeria and Congo.

Senegalese President Macky Sall, the chair of the African Union, in remarks at Thursday’s session thanked Biden for his commitment to Africa, but said the continent faces great challenges, from rising food insecurity to improvements in much-needed infrastructure to fend off the scourge of climate change.

He also raised concerns about years-long US sanctions against Zimbabwe over corruption and human rights violations, saying it was time to lift the sanctions so the nation could “fight poverty and underdevelopment.”

Africa has been disproportionately hurt by rising world food prices caused by Russia’s war on Ukraine. Sall said it was critical to pay attention to the “lessons” of the pandemic and war crises.

“The time is right to take strong action in the field of agriculture and food security,” said Sall.

He added that the African Union expects a “strong commitment and support” from the United States in the fight against terrorism.

“We want the fight against terrorism to be an integral part of the global fight against this plague,” he said.

The White House said Biden spoke about the recent US midterm elections, when voters rejected several candidates who denied the 2020 results, with the president arguing that “the strength and resilience of democracy American reaffirmed themselves in the process.

Thousands of Trump supporters descended on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 in a violent insurrection, breaking through police barricades and smashing the building’s windows, chanting for the vice president to be hanged.

Trump and his allies also launched approximately 50 lawsuits aimed at overturning the vote count in the battleground states. They lost almost every legal battle they fought, and Biden was declared the winner.

The White House announced last week Biden’s support for the African Union to become part of the G-20, which is made up of the world’s major industrial and emerging economies and accounts for more than 80% of the world’s gross domestic product. South Africa is currently the only African member of the G-20. The African Union represents the 54 countries of the continent.

On Wednesday, Biden laid out plans for billions in pledged government funds and private investment on Wednesday to help the growing continent in healthcare, infrastructure, business and technology. He and first lady Jill Biden also invited the nation’s leaders and their spouses to a dinner at the White House.

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Associated Press writers Cara Anna in Nairobi, Kenya and Andrew Meldrum in Johannesburg contributed to this report.

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