By Hamza Kyeyune,
KAMPALA, Uganda (AA) - US Vice President Kamala Harris is embarking on a weeklong trip to Africa beginning this weekend that will be closely watched as she is the first Black woman US vice president to visit the continent.
It will come eight years after Barack Obama, the first US Black president, made his trip to the region in office.
US administration officials previewing the trip said it is a “future-oriented” expedition to deepen the relationship and portray Africa as a place for investment -- not just aid packages, a theme Harris emphasized in December during a US-Africa summit in Washington, the only one since 2014, which was hosted by Obama.
Senior administration officials said Harris will build off remarks made at the summit where she touted US commitments to invest in innovation and creativity across the continent and announced President Joe Biden would sign an executive order to establish the President’s Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement aimed at providing advice and recommendations about how to strengthen the relationships between Africa and the US.
“I’m going to Africa mainly to talk with African leaders about what we, as the United States, are prepared to do to have our role in investing in the future of that continent,” Harris said in a radio interview Friday.
“The vice president is visiting three countries where the government is investing in democracies, specifically at a time where we know there is a global democratic recession,” said a senior administration official.
She will visit Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia, where she will hold meetings with top leaders, focusing on economic development, climate change and food security, among other issues.
She is scheduled to arrive Sunday in Ghana’s capital of Accra.
Experts said Harris will have to convey the US’ sincerity of its long-term commitment to the region and her previous promises that Washington would be a “better partner” than China for economic stability still rings true.
In the wake of the US’ absence from the region, amplified by former President Donald Trump ignoring Africa, never visiting the continent and disparaging certain African nations in a 2018 meeting as “(expletive) countries,” other nations made inroads.
Harris will see one of the clearest examples of China’s influence when lands in Zambia at the newly renovated Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka, financed and designed with Chinese money.
The vice president’s motorcade will likely drive down roads that were also financed by Chinese loans.
Her trip is the latest by US officials who plan on visiting or have visited Africa.
US first lady Jill Biden returned from her trip to Africa last month. American Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield visited earlier this year.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Ethiopia and Niger last week and the US president is expected to visit the continent later in 2023.