By Spy Uganda Correspondent
Vice President Kamala Harris will try to deepen and reframe U.S. relationships in Africa during a week long trip that is the latest and highest profile outreach by the Biden administration as it moves to counter China’s growing influence.
Harris, who is traveling with her husband, Doug Emhoff, plans to visit Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia, focusing on economic development, climate change, food security and a rising youth population. She is scheduled to arrive in Accra, Ghana’s capital, on Sunday.
“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 expect at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former U.S. ambassador to Botswana. “I see a big effort to change that thinking now. But it takes time.”
In Africa, Harris will be closely watched as the first person of color and first woman to serve as America’s vice president. Her mother was born in India and her father was born in Jamaica; Harris was raised in California.
“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.”
A centerpiece of Harris’ trip will be a speech in Accra and a visit to Cape Coast Castle, where enslaved Africans were once loaded onto ships for America. 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.
Her itinerary also includes several less traditional stops intended to highlight the dynamic future of a continent where the median age is just 19.
Harris plans to visit a recording studio and meet with female entrepreneurs in Accra and stop by a tech incubator in Dar es Salaam. In Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, Harris is expected to meet with business and philanthropic leaders to talk about expanding access to digital and financial systems.
The hope, administration officials said, is to portray Africa as a place for investment, not just aid packages, a theme that Harris emphasized in December during a U.S.-Africa summit in Washington.
“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.”
The trip includes three nights in Ghana, two nights in Tanzania and one in Zambia, before Harris returns to Washington on April 2.
“It’s a trip about supporting reformers,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, co-director of the Africa Security Initiative at the Brookings Institution. “All three countries have been going through significant challenges and significant changes.”
Ghana faces a debt crisis and high inflation, dragging down an economy that was once among the region’s strongest. It’s also wary about instability from Islamist militants and Russian mercenaries who operate in nations north of Ghana.