Biden to host dozens of African Union leaders and endorse bloc's entry into G20

White House officials promise 'major deliverables and initiatives' from the forum, but play down any emphasis on countering Russia and China

President Joe Biden is scheduled to deliver an address at a US-Africa business forum and host multilateral talks with leaders. AP
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US President Joe Biden will host 49 African leaders in Washington this week after the White House announced that the summit would be used to endorse the African Union's admission to the G20.

The summit, beginning on Wednesday, “will underscore the value the United States places on our collaboration with Africa”, the White House said.

It will be the biggest international gathering in Washington since before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, with major road closures and increased security expected throughout the capital city.

In addition to endorsing the African Union's G20 status, Washington will commit $55 billion to the continent over the course of the next three years “across a wide range of sectors to tackle the core challenges of our time”, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Monday.

“Africa is a key geopolitical player. The continent will shape the future not just of the African people, but also the world,” he added.

“It’s past time Africa has permanent seats at the table in international organisations and initiatives.”

The G20, an informal grouping of the world’s largest economies, is the premier global forum for discussing global economic issues.

Representation in that forum will allow African countries to better lobby the body on pressing issues, including its pledge to help the continent to cope with climate change.

“The summit is really rooted in the recognition that Africa is a key geopolitical player and one that is shaping our present and will shape our future,” a senior White House official told reporters on a press call.

White House officials said that the forum will primarily focus on issues including Covid, climate change, the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the amplification of diaspora ties.

Mr Biden is scheduled to deliver an address at a US-Africa business forum and host multilateral talks with leaders as well as a White House dinner.

The White House added that on Thursday, Mr Biden will host “high-level discussions”, including a session on Agenda 2063, the African Union's strategic vision for the continent.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken with African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat in Ottawa, Canada. AP

The announcement of Mr Biden's endorsement of the African Union's permanent status in the G20 was met with support from leaders on Capitol Hill.

Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Gregory Meeks praised the move as a “significant step” towards “promoting African agency, equity and leadership in the international community”.

The Biden administration promised “a number” of incoming announcements over the week, including “specific deliverables and a number of different areas, new projects and initiatives, new funding streams”.

The White House has played down questions that the summit is part of an effort to combat the influence of China and Russia amid increased concerns over their role on the continent.

China is Africa’s largest trading partner and source of foreign direct investment, the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations reported.

Investment from Beijing has backed infrastructure development and economic growth across the continent through programmes such as the Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to create a transcontinental economic belt and maritime road connecting Eurasia to Africa.

Recent polling from the UK-based YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project found that Beijing is increasingly popular compared to Washington across the continent.

In South Africa, 61 per cent of respondents saw China’s influence in the world as positive; in Kenya, support was higher at 82 per cent, while Nigeria showed the highest opinion of Beijing, with 83 per cent support.

Updated: December 12, 2022, 8:45 PM
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