U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit: Biden promises African heads of state a partnership of equals 

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President Obama hosted first U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit August 3-6, 2014. (Photo: White House archives)

The largest group of African leaders ever to meet on American soil came to Washington in August 2014. They did it again December 13-15, 2022. 

President Barack Obama hosted the first U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit August 3-6 2014. President Joe Biden, then Obama’s vice president, has topped his former chief in attracting the greatest number of African leaders to gather at the White House for the second U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit.

“The United States is all in on Africa’s future,” Biden said in his speech welcoming Africa’s top state executives.

Obama reached an agreement with the 49 African leaders in 2014 to hold the summit every four years. But president Donald Trump trashed the idea of meeting with the entire slate of African leaders, having referred to Haiti and the African countries as “s—hole countries” in January 2018, the second year of his administration.

Eight years after the 2014 gathering, Joe Biden has gone all out to revive Obama’s promised summit. All the nations of Africa except the four suspended from the African Union and the one sanctioned by the United States – Eritrea – were represented at this year’s summit. The four nations in trouble with the African Union are Mali, Burkina Faso, Sudan, and Guinea because of recent military coups. Due to strained diplomatic relations with Eritrea, the United States denied it an invitation.

Biden promised $55 billion over the next three years for investment in African projects ranging from rural development to space technology. Another $2.5 billion was announced for food assistance to Africa.

Earlier in the year, Senegalese President Macky Sall, the current African Union chairman, called for a greater inclusion of African nations in the decision-making positions in world organizations such as the G-20 economic group of nations and the Security Council of the United Nations.

“Africa is a vast continent, with 1.4 billion inhabitants and a GDP of $2.7 trillion,” Sall said.  “But Africa is still at the periphery. When we’re deciding the world’s fate, there must be more room for Africa.” 

FREE TRADE

ZONE

In January 2021, the AU launched the world’s largest free trade zone – the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). There are 43 partners to the agreement and 11 additional states that signed on to it but are not full members.

In 2013, the AU developed a long-range plan called Agenda 2063 that, if achieved, would bring peace and prosperity to the whole of Africa by the year 2063. One of the agenda’s most immediate goals was the ending of all wars, civil conflicts, and gender-based violence in Africa by 2020. Although some progress was made, Africa as a whole fell well short of that ambitious goal.

The AU wants all its member states to have a single passport good for passage to and through all 55 nations of the continent.

Among the most important AU goals is the establishment of a Pan African Development Bank and an African Central Bank, among other major financial structures. 

In September 2022, the Biden administration announced a new Strategy for sub-Saharan Africa, consisting of four principles: fair and open society, advancing democracy and tackling security problems, supporting a quick pandemic recovery, and to encourage climate adaptions and green energy programs.

Biden apparently had been listening to the African leaders before the summit. The president included Sall’s concerns in his address to the summit, saying he would support the two new roles proposed for Africa in both the G20 and the UN Security Council. 

“Africa belongs at the table in every room where global challenges are being discussed, and in every institution where discussions are taking place,” Biden said.

DIASPORA

ENGAGEMENT

On December 13, Biden announced the establishment of the President’s Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement in the United States.  

“Within 180 days of the date of this order,” Biden said, “the Secretary of State shall establish the  President’s Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement in the United States within the Department of State.”

Biden’s advisory is designed to recognize and encourage opportunities for the African Diaspora in the United States. The State of the African Diaspora (SOAD) – Region 6 is a formal state within the African Union, along with the other 54 nation states. This includes the people of African descent distributed in all parts of the world, especially in the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean. As of 2018, SOAD has been recognized, although it remains in the formative stage as regards its laws and means of identifying its individual members.   

The President has named Ambassador Johnnie Carson, the former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs under Obama, as the special staff to ensure the commitments of the U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit are implemented. Carson has also served as ambassador to Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe under George W. Bush and Bill Clinton before Obama appointed him to Assistant Secretary of State in 2009.

Paul Pumphrey, Friends of the Congo co-founder and treasurer, is very skeptical about the Biden benevolent turn to Africa after America’s half-century of neglect and exploitation.  Pumphrey is one of three owners of Maryland based SpagnVola Chocolate Company, rated by National Geographic Magazine as the best-made chocolate in the U.S.  

An activist in the civil rights and anti-Apartheid movements from their earliest stages in the 1960’s through the waning years, Pumphrey was one of the founding members and officers of the Friends of the Congo and has remained an advocate for Congolese liberation during its many conflicts and upheavals.

He thinks the United States is simply modifying its tactics rather than changing its approach to exploiting the developing nations of Africa. 

“The U.S. government has had a long history of following Europe in its exploitation of Africa,” he said. “If you look at countries like Ghana where they helped overthrow Kwame Nkrumah. When you look at countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where they helped to overthrow and kill Patrice Lumumba, it’s clear as to what’s going on. One of the problems right now is that they fear losing their advantages in trade, while at the same time trying to block African countries from doing better trade deals with other countries.”

SOAD

OPPORTUNITIES

Biden also issued an advisory that recognizes and encourages opportunities for the African Diaspora in the United States. The State of the African Diaspora (SOAD) – Region 6 is a formal state within the African Union, along with the other 54 states. This includes the people of African descent distributed in all parts of the world, especially in the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean. As of 2018, SOAD has been recognized as a unit within the AU, although it remains in the formative stage as regards to its laws and means of identifying its members.   

Dewayne Boyd is the Minister of Agriculture of the SOAD. He is a former employee of the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce and was the special assistant for African Affairs for the late Michigan Congressman John Conyers. 

Boyd said that he has had no direct involvement with the Washington summit.

“I was interested in seeing what the outcome would have been if they had followed up on the first Africa Leaders Summit under Obama,”  Boyd said. “But I wasn’t notified or given an invitation to attend the summit. I hope that something really good will develop from this.”

As Minister of Agriculture of the SOAD, he travels to Africa on a regular basis. A large part of his time is spent on cementing relations between Black entrepreneurs and farmers in the United States with their counterparts in African nations. He played the key role in establishing a Sister-City relationship between Tuskegee City and University and the Congolese city of Mbuji-Mayi,  Congo’s second largest city known for its diamond fields and the nearby agricultural research center at Yangambi.

As one of the sideline activities at the summit, the U.S. signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the DRC and Zambia for e-vehicle supply chains, Boyd pointed out. The U.S. wants to be sure that it will have an abundant supply of the cobalt and coltan that comes from the Congolese mines and that are essential to the manufacturing of electric batteries and cell phone batteries. 

“The U.S. is at logger’s head at how to counter the Chinese influence in Africa,” Boyd said. “So, they will never just walk away or look at Africa as an insignificant supplier of strategic minerals to the world’s global supply chain, especially with the issue of Green energy and the electric car and with the country and the world having to go green because of the issue of climate change. No, they cannot just walk away from Africa in that respect, no matter what they’ve said.

“The African Union should have had a seat on the G20 board a long time ago,” he said. “It’s long overdue. That’s just another carrot that they put out to basically woo the African leaders and countries to the West’s side, as opposed to China or the other former colonials. 

“There’s a saying that the world revolves around Africa, and Africa revolves around the Congo,” Boyd said. “The whole world needs the resources of Africa. Africa is the world preserve of natural resources right now. Western, Chinese, and Russian interests are all trying to get to the planet Mars. They need the key mineral resources cobalt and coltan that are found in abundance only in Africa, and particularly in the Congo. So, it’s vital that Africa should be at the center of world interests right now. World affairs cannot continue in the old colonial model that they have been mired in up to the present.” 

BLACK AMERICAN

INVESTMENT

Paul Pumphrey says Black Americans can play a major role in developing industries in Africa. He uses his experience in the cocoa business as an example of how it can be done. He is one of three owners of the world’s best chocolate producer.

The cocoa industry generates about $135 billion a year, he said. But a shipping size container load of cocoa sells for less than $50,000, he said. If we take all the cocoa grown in the Caribbean, Africa, Central America, and South America, which is about 95 percent of the cocoa market, you don’t even have $10 billion. 

That shipping container of cocoa generates about $2.3 million once it’s made into premium chocolate. That’s a markup of over six thousand and seven hundred percent (6,700) percent. 

“We can easily learn how to process cocoa,” he says. “Why aren’t we taking that knowledge to Africa? Or Haiti, or the Dominican Republic or wherever? That’s one of the projects I’m working on with my company.”

Pumphrey is invested in cocoa farming and gives an example of how Black Americans can help build an industry in Africa. On the cocoa market, a shipping container of cocoa costs $50,000 from the source. That cocoa, when processed, is worth $2.3 million.

“If we took that knowledge that we can so easily learn  here in the USA and we transferred that knowledge to Africa, we would generate more money than we would ever generate out of our reparations.

“You don’t need rocket scientists to do this,” he says. “You can take five doctors, for example. They could easily pull together $250,000. Out of that $250,000, you could buy two shipping sized containers of cocoa. That’s $100,000. Then, they can buy all the equipment they need to make that cocoa into chocolate with the other $150,000.  Now they have the equivalent of $5 million. They clearly have the resources necessary if they have the will to make this happen.” 

Pumphrey suggests that the large church organizations like the AME church or the National Baptist Convention could also invest in these kinds of business ventures to benefit Africa as well as their own organizations. 

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U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit: Biden promises African heads of state a partnership of equals 

By Earnest McBride
January 2, 2023