What will Africa gain from the US summit starting today?

The competition for Africa’s attention is being stepped up today, as the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit starts in Washington DC, from 13th to 15th December 2022. Hosted by President Joe Biden, The Summit, according to the US government aims to demonstrate its “enduring commitment to Africa and will underscore the importance of U.S.-Africa relations and increased cooperation on shared global priorities.”

It is expected to build on what the U.S. describes as shared values to better foster new economic engagement, advance peace, security, and good governance, reinforce commitment to democracy, human rights, and civil society, work collaboratively to strengthen regional and global health security, promote food security, respond to the climate crisis, amplify diaspora ties, and promote education and youth leadership.

“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,” said President Biden of the U.S.

The U.S. department of state, wrote on a page dedicated to the Summit on its website, that “Africa will shape the future — not just the future of the African people, but of the world.” It further says Africa will make the difference in tackling the most urgent challenges and seizing the opportunities we all face, but how and when this will become a reality, is yet unanswered

In the U.S. strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa, which was published in August, it says that the region is critical to advancing its global priorities, having one of the world’s fastest growing populations, largest free trade areas, most diverse ecosystems, and one of the largest regional voting groups in the United Nations (UN).

As Africa’s energy demands increase to support economic growth, the U.S. says it will use its influence, development assistance, and financing to help African partners adapt and build resilience to climate impacts

For the U.S., it is impossible (at least so it says), to meet this era’s defining challenges without African contributions and leadership. The region will factor prominently in efforts to: end the COVID-19 pandemic; tackle the climate crisis; reverse the global tide of democratic backsliding; address global food insecurity; strengthen an open and stable international system; shape the rules of the world on vital issues like trade, cyber, and emerging technologies; and confront the threat of terrorism, conflict, and transnational crime.

The African Union on its website recalled that the first U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit was held in 2014, under President Obama’s administration, announcing and engaging new private sector commitments to invest and partner with African countries on initiatives in energy, financial services, climate change, food security and health care, among other areas.

The AU expects this year’s summit to prioritize similar issues, while placing an even greater emphasis on bilateral trade and investment initiatives.

The summit, the AU says, will include new initiatives to increase U.S. engagement with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), as well as initiatives to boost the continent’s recovery from COVID-19, bolster food security and promote investment in infrastructure, health and renewable energy projects, among other priorities.

The forum will also include interactions with the civil society, multilateral meetings between President Biden and African Heads of state, secretary and cabinet-level meetings for trade, energy and diplomacy, and a collection of industry-focused meetings under the purviews of the U.S.-Africa Business Forum.

The AU further notes that activities during the summit will include the Civil Society Day scheduled to take place on 13 December 2022. This will include the following:

• African and Diaspora Young Leaders Forum – This forum will elevate the diaspora engagement to strengthen the dialogue between U.S. officials and the diaspora in the United States and provide a platform for young African and diaspora leaders.

• African Growth and Opportunity Act Ministerial Meeting – the ministerial will be hosted by U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai with Sub-Saharan African trade ministers and senior officials.

Furthermore, a Business Day scheduled for 14 December 2022 will comprise of the U.S.-Africa Business Forum (USABF), hosted by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Corporate Council on Africa, in partnership with the Prosper Africa initiative.

The USABF will focus on advancing a two-way trade and investment partnership that bolsters Africa’s role in the global economy, scale innovation and entrepreneurship, and drive advancements in key sectors. The USABF will also include “Deal Rooms” that will showcase commitments made by U.S. companies investing in and partnering with Africa.

A Leaders Day is also scheduled for the 15 of December 2022. The Leaders Day will feature government meetings and events for the visiting country delegations.

On its part, the United States strategy document for SSA, says it will pursue four objectives in sub-Saharan Africa.

1. Foster openness and open societies: The United States has an abiding interest in ensuring the region remains open and accessible to all, and that governments and publics can make their own political choices, consistent with international obligations. Open societies are generally more inclined to work in common cause with the United States, attract greater U.S. trade and investment, pursue policies to improve conditions for their citizens, and counter harmful activities by the PRC, Russia, and other foreign actors.

The United States says it will work with African governments, civil society, and publics to increase transparency and accountability, including by supporting investigative journalism, combating digital authoritarianism, and enshrining laws, reforms, and practices that promote shared democratic norms.

2. Deliver democratic and security dividends: The US says the region’s commitment and capacity to renew its democracies, as well as anticipate, prevent, and address emerging and long running conflicts, can lead to more favourable outcomes for Africans and Americans. There are strong linkages between poor and exclusionary governance, high levels of corruption, human rights abuses, including sexual and gender-based violence, and insecurity, which are often exploited by terrorist groups and malign foreign actors.

By simultaneously addressing these challenges and reaffirming that democracy delivers tangible benefits, the United States can offer choices to Africans as they determine their own future, limit openings for negative state and non-state actors, and obviate the need for costly interventions.

3. Advance pandemic recovery and economic opportunity: It is essential to address two of the region’s most pressing problems: the COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant economic and social consequences. These challenges have been compounded by supply chain problems and food insecurity stemming from Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine.

The United States also says it is committed to working with regional governments and international partners to build more stable and inclusive African economies. U.S. support for the region’s equitable recovery, it says is a prerequisite to regaining Africa’s trust in U.S. global leadership, increasing U.S. trade and investment, and creating U.S. and African jobs.

4. Support conservation, climate adaptation, and a just energy transition: Africa’s efforts to conserve and restore the continent’s ecosystems and rich natural resources – while also realizing energy access and energy security goals, diversifying its energy mix, and building sustainable supply chains – are central to tackling the global climate crisis. Although the region is responsible for extremely low emissions per capita, it stands to suffer from some of the most severe effects of climate change.

Read also: US-Africa Summit to strengthen US activity in Africa

As Africa’s energy demands increase to support economic growth, the U.S. says it will use its influence, development assistance, and financing to help African partners adapt and build resilience to climate impacts and promote mitigation strategies to achieve a sustainable and low-carbon future.

Lastly, the United States says it will continue pursuing public-private partnerships to sustainably develop and secure the critical minerals that will supply clean energy technologies needed to facilitate the global energy transition.

Riding on the wave of the summit, the ONE campaign called on the US Government to commit to priorities that can drive continental growth.

“The ONE Campaign recognises the Summit as a significant opportunity for the US to reaffirm its promise to Africa and increase cooperation to tackle the continents’ greatest global challenges,” the organisation said in a statement. “As the continent recovers from the effects of the CoVID-19 pandemic, the Summit should focus on creating strategic initiatives that will stimulate economic growth, create jobs, and create resiliency in an era of polycrisis.”

This includes addressing the challenges around debt, strengthening global health security, and measures to address the spiraling food crisis and environmental shocks, it said.

It called on the Biden administration to show leadership on the world stage and commit to certain priority actions that are critical for driving economic prosperity in the continent. These include encouraging private sector investments through the Development Finance Corporation that are focused on growth in Africa. It expands on this saying over 1 billion Africans are under the age of 25, and by 2030, Africa’s youth will represent 42 percent of the global youth population.

Africa needs about 15 million new decent jobs every year to harness its demographic dividend, and when asked, African citizens’ greatest priority is Sustainable Development Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth. It is imperative that a US-Africa partnership create investments that will tap into the booming potential of Africa’s youth, in turn creating growth, stability, and prosperity, it said.

Elevate Africa’s food crisis on a global stage – Rising prices, environmental shocks and Russia’s war in Ukraine have exacerbated an already dangerous and growing food crisis in the Horn of Africa. The United Nations $1.5 billion response plan to avert famine in Somalia is only two-thirds funded.

While the Biden administration has allocated $870 million to help fight this crisis, this only totalling to half of all humanitarian funding committed to Somalia, it will take the voice of the US leadership to get wealthy countries to step up and pay attention to this crisis.

Multilateral Development Banks Optimization – Modernize the multilateral development banks, like the World Bank, so that they are more efficient with the resources they have and can leverage up to $1 trillion in new lending without putting their triple A credit rating at risk.

However, all these remain expectations and aspirations yet to be crystal clear, as to what Africa and its leaders will leave Washington with in delivering better standards of living to hundreds of millions of Africans in dire need of better lives.