President Joe Biden has announced support for the African Union joining the Group of 20 (G20), a global forum for major economies, as the United States seeks to build stronger relations with African nations.
Speaking at a US-Africa Leaders Summit event on Thursday, Biden said African leadership and innovation were critical to addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges.
That is why his administration has expressed support for reforming the United Nations Security Council to include an African representative, as well as giving the African Union a permanent place at the G20, Biden said.
“Africa belongs at the table in every room – in every room where global challenges are being discussed, and in every institution where discussions are taking place,” he said.
“It’s been a long time in coming, but it’s gonna come.”
Biden’s comments arrive a day after Washington unveiled a string of new investments and trade deals in Africa, as part of the three-day leaders’ summit in the US capital.
Delegates from 49 African countries, as well as the African Union, were invited to the talks, a follow-up to the first such gathering eight years ago under then-President Barack Obama.
Biden has sought to rebuild US relationships abroad after four years of former President Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy, which saw the country withdraw from international bodies and accords.
The Biden administration’s push to invest in Africa also comes against a backdrop of global competition with Beijing, which has invested in the region at a level that has far outpaced the US in recent years.
As the summit wraps up, Thursday’s talks were dedicated to high-level discussions about the US partnering with the African Union’s strategic vision for the continent. That includes food security, an issue that has drawn global concern amid soaring food prices linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Adding the African Union to the G20 would give African nations a bigger say on that issue and other key world concerns, such as climate change and the response to COVID-19.
It could also help countries in the region access a common framework for restructuring their debt.
Meanwhile, Biden said on Thursday that he will soon make a visit to sub-Saharan Africa and would dispatch many of his top advisers to the continent, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.
“I’m looking forward to seeing you in your home countries,” said Biden, without providing additional details on the visit or when it would take place.
Biden would be the first US president to visit since Obama went to Kenya and Ethiopia in 2015.
The US also pledged more than $165m to support elections and good governance in Africa next year, after Biden met with the leaders of countries that will soon hold elections.
Biden met on Wednesday with heads of state from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Liberia, Madagascar, Nigeria and Sierra Leone to discuss upcoming elections, the White House said in a statement on Thursday.
The leaders, who met on the sidelines of the summit, discussed the challenges of holding elections, including foreign interference and political violence, the White House said.
Those at the meeting reaffirmed their commitment to hold “free, fair and transparent elections” that would be conducted by independent national electoral bodies, the US statement read.
“The elections in Africa in 2023 will be consequential. While the United States does not support any specific candidate or party, the United States is committed to supporting electoral processes to deepen democracy in Africa,” it said.