Even as a growing number of U.S. officials are citing the nation’s rising debt and a lack of transparency in calling for decreased foreign aid, particularly in Ukraine, the Biden administration is pushing to ramp up investments in Africa.
Vice President Kamala Harris is touring the continent this week and cited China’s growing influence in the region as a primary factor in the decision to increase U.S. spending there.
“On this trip I intend to do work that is focused on increasing investments here on the continent and facilitating economic growth and opportunity,” she said upon arriving in Ghana.
Harris is expected to address China’s recent investments in Africa during her visit, which will include a tour of a site where slaves were long ago rounded up and shipped to America. She is scheduled to remain in Ghana until Wednesday and then spend three days in Tanzania before ending her tour in Zambia.
Any additional aid to Africa would come on the heels of previous Biden administration promises, including a vow in December to spend $55 billion on improving the continent over the course of three years. Earlier this month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Niger and confirmed plans for a humanitarian aid package valued at $150 million.
Although Harris’ visit is being sold as a humanitarian mission, some African leaders are skeptical.
For his part, Zambian Socialist Party President Fred Mmembe sees the trip as a cynical political move.
“It’s not democracy and human rights they are pursuing in Africa,” he said. “They are pursuing their geopolitical interests; they are pursuing their own economic interests. It is not for us, it is for them.”
On a more personal level, the trip could have a major impact — for better or worse — on the vice president’s political future. Various media reports have surfaced thus far in President Joe Biden’s term that suggest he has been underwhelmed by her performance.
Kamala Harris in Ghana: "I'm very excited about the future of Africa. I'm very excited about the impact of the future of Africa" pic.twitter.com/zLTlVHDVFf
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) March 26, 2023
According to one former White House official, Biden does not see Harris “as somebody who takes anything off of his plate [due to] a fear of messing up.”
Her ability, or lack thereof, to exceed expectations while touring Africa could cement the opinion her boss and the American people have of her abilities.