U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’ trip to Africa is part of a reenergized outreach to African countries. The United States seeks to build partnerships on the continent. Meanwhile, other countries such as Russia also spread their influence in the region by selling arms and offering assistance.
Why so much interest in Africa? Its population is growing fast. In the near future, “One in four people on this Earth will be on this continent,” Harris says. Those demographics, she says, mean that “if we are to be forward-looking in terms of national policies and priorities, we have to look at this continent.”
On Wednesday, Harris unveiled more than $1 billion in public and private funding for women’s economic empowerment in Africa. It is also intended to expand access to digital services, provide job training, and support entrepreneurs.
The American vice president made the announcement during a meeting with six Ghanaian female entrepreneurs. It was her final event in Ghana. She continued her weeklong tour in Tanzania and Zambia.
Harris is the most high-profile member of President Joe Biden’s administration to visit Africa this year. She’s paid particular attention to economic development and young people during her trip.
Harris visited a skate park and recording studio and released a Spotify playlist of African musicians. She spoke to a crowd of thousands of young people and invited a group of celebrities, civil rights leaders, and businesspeople to join her at a banquet in her honor.
Her efforts are meant to change how Americans view opportunities in Africa. New investments could benefit U.S. businesses. They could also ease one of the most pressing challenges in Africa: work.
“If we don’t find jobs—because that’s what it’s about—for this growing young population, it will be dangerous for the political stability on the continent,” says Rama Yade. She is senior director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center. “Because [people] will attack the institutions if they don’t have the means for living.”
The desire for investment was on full display Monday evening at Ghana’s presidential palace. Washington officials ditched their usual serious attire for vibrant dresses and sharp tuxedos for the state banquet.
Although the atmosphere was festive, the message was all business. A large screen at the far end of the banquet tent showed a computer-generated animation of future development in Accra. It imagined a modern African city.
“We’re encouraged by the fact that more American companies than ever are looking to invest in Ghana,” Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo says. He promises an “investment atmosphere that will not only guarantee the safety of their investments, but good returns on those investments as well.”
Ghana is experiencing skyrocketing inflation and bulging debt. Akufo-Addo points out that the war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic haven’t helped the country—or the continent.
“Together, we must help make Africa the place for investment, progress, and prosperity,” he says.
But that hope isn’t necessarily widespread.
Adwoa Brentuo graduated four years ago with a degree in information science. She is one of many who fear their education was no help.
“I have now given up about getting a job because they are nonexistent,” she says.
Mustapha Yussif is Ghana’s minister of youth and sports. He estimates that only one out of 10 college graduates gets a job.
“The rest will not be able to get any employment for a long time,” he says.
It’s a problem across the continent. The African Development Bank estimates that there are about 11 million people entering the job market. Yet there are only about three million jobs available.
Harris is eager to help foster change in Africa.
“I know that by working together, the United States and Ghana . . . [will] share our future for the better,” Harris says.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. — Romans 15:13
(U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris arrives at Cape Coast Castle in Ghana on March 28, 2023. AP/Misper Apawu)
OK... I think this is good, if America doesn't just give money. Just giving money is not the answer! America needs to give teachers, medical workers etc. as well as funds. America needs to set up ways to keep accountability and make sure the funds are managed correctly. They can't just hand out money and expect it to be used in the right ways to actually help and bring lasting change.
I agree Cherith! America is KNOWN for doing NOTHING. Just putting solders in a country, giving money, or saying kind words. But really causing more problems. But maybe this time they could actually help. We'll have to see...