Biden Administration Announces $55 Billion Economic Aid And Assistance Package For Africa

 December 15, 2022

On Monday, the White House announced $55 billion in economic aid, health care, and security support for Africa.

President Joe Biden hosted a meeting for African leaders that began on Tuesday, during which the White House promised that further details of the massive benefits package would be divulged. 

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, in a somewhat transparent attempt, to dispel any notion that the U.S. seeks to control the destiny of African nations, explained that the funds would support the African Union’s Agenda 2063 plan for economic development. Being equally transparent, the White House appeared to avoid being seen as buying influence in Africa to counter the political investments China and Russia have been making.

Sullivan told reporters on Monday-

“Working closely with Congress, the U.S. will commit $55 billion to Africa over the course of the next three years across a wide range of sectors to tackle the core challenges of our time,” …[supporting Africa’s focus]…“That is not an American document. It is not an American Vision. It is the African Union’s document,”…[an of world support]…“It’s not going to be attempting to compare and contrast. This is going to be about what we can offer. It’s going to be a positive proposition about the United States, its partnership with Africa,”

- White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan

In further plans for bolstering African development, the White House explained it, includes pushing for an African country to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and inviting the African Union to join the Group of 20 (G20) association of top world economies. Currently South Africa, is the only African nation in the G20.

Designed to be implemented in five, “ten-year plans,” the Agenda 2063, is a plan that was formulated by the African Union (AU) in 2013.  By promoting “inclusive social and economic development, continental and regional integration, democratic governance and peace and security,” the goal of this Agenda, is to transform Africa into “the global powerhouse of the future”

Scheduled to begin next year, the second of five ten-year plans are already in place. Holding periodic training sessions to instruct African journalists, on how they should cover Agenda 2063 topics with relentless optimism, the AU carefully controls information about how the plan is coming along. However, in February, the AU issued a report that conceded only 51 percent of anticipated progress was made during the first ten-year plan. This disappointing outcome was reportedly blamed in part on rising fuel prices, the coronavirus pandemic, and disruptions from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The CEO of the African Union’s development agency NEPAD, stated-

“We have also noted the need to strengthen human and institutional capacity in data and knowledge management. The low scores in some priority areas of Agenda 2063 can be explained, in part, by missing or insufficient data,”

-Dr. Ibrahim Asane Mayaki, CEO of African Union’s Development Agency, NEPAD

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken together with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, on Tuesday, at a meeting with the leaders of Niger, Djibouti, and Somalia, praised the vision and leadership of Africa’s current generation of executives and stressed the importance of the continent as a rising global power. Blinken frequently, was said to have praised the “close partnership” between African Union members and the United States. Secretary Austin in a statement said-

“We’re all here today because we recognize that African leadership remains key to confronting our era’s defining challenges of peace, security, and governance, so we deeply appreciate your leadership and your friendship and look forward to continuing to build upon our important partnership”.

-Lloyd Austin, U.S. Defense Secretary

However, on Tuesday, Columnist Rodney Sieh, of Front Page Africa (FPA) pointed out that for all of the White House hype about an “Africa week,” timed to coincide with the eighth anniversary of former President Barack Obama’s U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit, no one-on-one meetings are scheduled between the visiting African heads of state and President Biden. Sieh further predicted-

“The absence of a one-on-one with leaders from the continent will disappoint a few including Liberian President George Weah, whose government has been struggling to make inroads in the Biden administration with limited success,”

Rodney Sieh, Columnist of Front Page Africa (FPA)

Noting that optimism for sweeping reform and development plans like Agenda 2063, Sieh explained - continue to be affected by African corruption scandals and human rights abuses, which can make it difficult for Western idealists to compete for influence against Chinese and Russian promises of support without any human rights strings attached.

Likely, the White House downplayed the fact that, Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized the Biden administration last month for relaxing its human rights standards to make overtures to African leaders accused of oppression and atrocities, notably including South Sudan’s brutal President Salva Kiir, authoritarian Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and the profoundly disappointing Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia, who went from winning a Nobel Peace Prize to overseeing an incredibly vicious civil war.

Reportedly the HRW further accused the Biden administration, of overlooking abuses and destabilizing behavior by Uganda, to send its despotic government millions of dollars in security assistance, and not doing enough to protect political freedom in Rwanda or Mali. In their statement the HRW said-

“Hosting these leaders at the White House will further legitimize these regimes, sending a clear message that the U.S. government values security considerations over human rights,”

-Human Rights Watch

The Western world’s struggle to keep Africa from more fully entering the amoral, authoritarian orbit of China and Russia by pushing hard for human rights could bring some desirable clarity, to African leaders and inspire them to do better, but it could also offend them, pushing them closer to Beijing or Moscow. It appears to be a politically delicate balancing act.

Further, the ambitious plans of Agenda 2063, rely heavily on international support to achieve much-needed reforms, however, in the current state of African politics, there is not much reason to believe funds will be spent responsibly. Legitimately, Africa needs an energy and industrial revolution, but Western environmentalists would likely deny its industries the reliable and affordable power they need. Likely China would happily provide it.

Again, it is a balancing act that needs, even demands, more of a joint U.S. effort in the decision-making process. One wonders what congressional support Biden actually sought, before making these promises to the AU. This new Congress cannot come soon enough.

"The best way for us to perhaps influence others is to instead focus on ourselves by doing our best - then others will be influenced from our leadership by example."

-Lisa Kardos
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