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Vice President Harris aims to deepen U.S. ties with Africa on weeklong trip

Vice President Kamala Harris, who is traveling with her husband, Doug Emhoff, plans to visit Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia, in order to focus on economic development, climate change, food security and a rising youth population. By deepening and reframing U.S. relationships in Africa, this outreach by the Biden Administration is seen as a way to counter China’s growing influence. 

“For too long, the U.S. foreign policy establishment has treated Africa like some kind of extra credit project and not part of the core curriculum,” said Michelle Gavin, an Africa expert at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former U.S. ambassador to Botswana. 

“I am an optimist about what lies ahead for Africa and, by extension, for the world because of you — because of your energy, your ambition, and your ability to transform seemingly intractable problems into opportunities,” she said. “Simply put: your ability to see what can be, unburdened by what has been.”

According to Harris’ itinerary, she plans to visit a recording studio and meet with female entrepreneurs in Accra. She also plans to stop by a tech incubator in Dar es Salaam, and is expected to meet with business and philanthropic leaders to talk about expanding access to digital and financial systems in Lusaka. The centerpiece of this weeklong trip will be a speech in Accra and a visit to Cape Coast Castle, where enslaved Africans were once loaded onto ships for America. Kamala Harris also plans to meet with leaders of each country she visits and lay a wreath to commemorate the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania.

“Everybody is excited about Kamala Harris,” said Idayat Hassan, director of the Centre for Democracy and Development in Abuja, Nigeria. “You can be anything that you can think of — that’s what she represents to many of us.” In fact, Harris will be closely watched as the first person of color and first woman to serve as America’s Vice President. This has led senior administration officials to be careful not to portray the trip as another move in a geopolitical rivalry. This could potentially alienate African leaders who are wary of taking sides between global superpowers, so all that is left now is to wait and see what Harris and the United States have to offer over the next week. Administration officials have also claimed that Africa is a place for investment, not just aid packages, a theme that Harris emphasized in December during a U.S.-Africa summit in Washington.

Overall, Kamala Harris has a very good reputation in Africa, due to her profile, but it is clear that the public opinion in the three countries will soon have expectations to be fulfilled. 


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