Vice President Harris’ Trip Aims to Strengthen US-Africa Relations

by Ethan Kim
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Vice President Kamala Harris is going on a week-long trip to Africa. She is hoping to make the relationship between America and Africa stronger and improve it in some way. This trip has been planned by the Biden Administration to compete with China and limit their power over the continent.

Harris is going on a trip to three countries – Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia. The main purpose of the trip is to look at ways to help with economic growth, reduction of climate change effects, better food supplies and dealing with rising numbers of young people. She will be arriving in Accra in Ghana on Sunday and her husband Doug Emhoff is joining her as well.

Michelle Gavin, who used to be the US Ambassador to Botswana and is now an Africa expert at the Council on Foreign Relations said that people in charge of US foreign policy did not treat Africa as something important for a long time. But this is slowly beginning to change and it will take some time before it happens fully.

Kamala Harris is making history as the first female and person of color to become the vice president of the United States. She has Indian roots on her mother’s side, Jamaican roots on her father’s side and was raised in California. This has caused many people in Africa to feel excited, especially Idayat Hassan from Nigeria who works at the Centre for Democracy & Development. To them, Harris represents that anyone can achieve their dreams if they work hard enough.

Kamala Harris is visiting some countries in Africa. She will be making a speech and visiting a famous castle where African people used to be taken against their will and put on ships so that they can be taken away as slaves. Kamala also plans on meeting with the country’s leaders and laying flowers for U.S. Embassy bombing victims in Tanzania, the East African country she’ll be visiting. In addition to these stops, she’ll also be going to some places that show how young and modern Africa is today, since most people living there are not even 20 years old yet!

Harris is traveling to Accra and Dar es Salaam where he will go to a recording studio, chat with female entrepreneurs, and visit a technology workspace. When he goes to Lusaka, Zambia’s capital city, he’ll talk with the business and charity folks about increasing access to digital and banking products.

When Emhoff visits Ghana, he’ll be hosting a special event including meetings with actors from a local TV show, going to a basketball clinic for girls and visiting an African chocolate company that’s owned by women. The point of these activities is to promote Africa as a great place to make investments in, not just receive aid, which Harris highlighted during an event with U.S. and African leaders back in December.

The speaker said she was hopeful about Africa’s future and the world’s future because of people like us – young people who are ambitious and determined to turn difficult problems into something positive. She said we don’t have to worry about what’s already been done, but instead focus on possibilities that lie ahead of us.

The speaker also mentioned a trip she will be taking which includes three nights in Ghana, two nights in Tanzania and one night in Zambia before she goes back to Washington on April 2nd.

Vanda Felbab-Brown, a co-director from the Africa Security Initiative of the Brookings Institution explains that this trip is about helping those countries that are experiencing changes and difficulties. Ghana’s economy has gone down due to debt crisis and inflation while they have concerns regarding the presence of militants or mercenaries from Russia in their neighbouring countries.

Tanzania just elected their first female president and she removed rules that stopped people from gathering and forming opposition parties. Zambia also made changes to the way laws work, like taking away punishments for saying mean things about the president. Even though these countries improved, some people think it won’t last long.

Janet Yellen (Treasury Secretary), Antony Blinken (Secretary of State) and Jill Biden (First Lady) already visited Africa on their own trips. President Joe Biden plans to visit later this year too.

Harris is going back to Zambia for the first time since she visited as a kid. That was when her granddad, who worked in Zambia, was still alive. He was from India and he helped move refugees around after the country officially got its independence from Britain.

Harris mentions in her book that her grandpa made a big impact on her life and always occupied a special place in her heart.

The U.S.-Africa summit held in December was the only one since 2014. It was run by President Barack Obama and is a significant event. The president before him, George W. Bush, actually did something important too: he lead an initiative to fight HIV/AIDS and his work has helped save millions of lives. Unfortunately, there have been times when Africa has been neglected by the United States.

Daniel Russel from the Asia Society Policy Institute said that a lot of people are skeptical and not sure if America will do what it promises. This contrasts with China, who accesses new technologies in South East Asia and puts more effort into their projects there.

John Kirby, a spokesperson from the White House who talks about national security, said this past week that African leaders are starting to realize that China is not being very helpful or friendly. He claimed that China only cares about themselves and their own interests, while the United States is dedicated and wants to help African countries tackle the challenges they face.

The US government is trying not to upset African leaders who don’t want to make a choice between the two biggest countries in the world. They are curious to see what Vice President Harris and the United States have to give during this coming week.

Rama Yade, the head of Africa Center at Atlantic Council, said that she has an impressive image in Africa. Afterwards, people from three countries will have certain expectations from her.

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