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The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Marks a Seismic Shift in Relations with the Continent

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The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Marks a Seismic Shift in Relations with the Continent

The second edition of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit (ALS) took place in Washington last week. Much has changed since former president Barack Obama held the inaugural summit in 2014, halfway through his second term. At that time, the geopolitical environment for strengthening ties was less fraught: global economic integration was accelerating, and Africa was “rising” from sluggish growth and persistent poverty. The initial summit was framed as an important first step in engaging with a “a new, more prosperous Africa,” as Obama put it. But this year’s summit occurred against a worrying economic and political backdrop of global inflation, an impending debt crisis for several African countries, intensifying strategic competition between the United States and China, and a hot war in Ukraine. In an uncertain international landscape, great and middle powers see a vital national interest in revamping relations with a continent that is perhaps the last frontier of future economic growth and an outsize voting bloc in multilateral fora.

Many of the analyses of the just-concluded ALS hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden compare it with high-level Africa summits convened by other great and middle powers. After all, the Africa + U.S. summit is one of eleven different recurring “Africa +1” summits, and Africa+1 summitry has occurred with increasing frequency over the last decade. Such comparisons often focus on regularity (the 2022 iteration was only the second ALS, versus eight Forums on China-Africa Cooperation [FOCAC] and eight Tokyo International Conferences on African Development [TICAD] as of this year); the headline financial commitment ($55 billion pledged by the United States at the 2022 ALS compared to China’s $40 billion pledge at the 2021 FOCAC and Japan’s $30 billion at the 2022 TICAD); the number of heads of states in attendance (forty-six including the chairperson of the African Union Commission at the 2022 ALS compared to fifty-one at the 2018 FOCAC); and whether bilateral meetings were set up between individual visiting African leaders and the host president (none at the ALS, while bilateral meetings with the Chinese president are a staple of FOCAC).

A “like-for-like” comparison is a worthy endeavor, but it is a narrow framework for evaluating the summit’s role in shaping the U.S. approach to Africa. A more useful assessment should take into account the evolution of American relations with the continent over the past few decades as well as more recent engagements with other low- and middle-income regions of the world, such as the U.S.-ASEAN Special Summit in May 2022 with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries and the Summit of the Americas in June 2022 with Latin American countries. Evaluating the ALS in this light, the Biden administration’s approach to the summit ushered in a potentially seismic shift in the U.S. relationship with African countries. Five key policy approaches enabled this success.

  1. Furthermore, throughout the summit’s dialogue sessions, senior U.S. government officials displayed remarkable openness to listening to and collaborating with their African counterparts. This receptiveness helped temper the long-held frustrations of many African stakeholders at what they perceive as persistent badgering by U.S. government officials about African institutional inadequacies and the tendency to delegate lower-ranking American officials to engage with senior African policymakers.
  2. Supporting Africa’s Representation in Global GovernanceOne of the major highlights of the ALS was Biden’s formal announcement of U.S. support for the African Union’s bid to join the G20 as a permanent member and his reiteration of U.S. support for UN Security Council reform to add a permanent member from the African continent. While this announcement comes weeks after Beijing and Paris expressed their support for African Union (AU) membership in the G20, it nevertheless carries a heavy weight because other major European countries will likely follow Washington’s lead on reforming global governance institutions. The promise to expand decisionmaking in international institutions to include Africa was particularly notable because neither ASEAN nor the Organization of American States (OAS) received an analogous pledge from the United States during their respective leaders’ summits.
  3. Pledging Billions to Advance Shared PrioritiesPerhaps the most talked about outcome of the ALS is the United States’ commitment of $55 billion to the African continent over the next three years. These funds will support the AU’s Agenda 2063 by investing in human capital, infrastructure, agriculture, health systems, and security in ways that advance shared U.S. and African priorities. It may be tempting to contrast this funding amount with the $40 billion announced at the 2021 FOCAC, but a better analogy is to previous U.S. initiatives toward Africa.
  1. This $55 billion includes over “$15 billion in [new] two-way trade and investment commitments, deals, and partnerships” announced during the summit to be anchored by more than a dozen U.S. federal departments and agencies (see Table below). Much of this headline pledge will comprise existing initiatives, and several will depend on the ability to secure actual funding from the U.S. Congress within the next twenty-four months. This financial pledge is different from the flagship initiatives announced previously: Obama’s Power Africa; George W. Bush’s President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR); and Donald Trump’s Prosper Africa. Similarly, the $55 billion dwarfs the new financial pledges announced at the U.S.-ASEAN Special Summit ($150 million) and the Summit for the Americas.
NEW U.S. GOVERNMENT INITIATIVES ANNOUNCED DURING THE 2022 U.S.-AFRICA LEADERS SUMMIT
InitiativeAmount (millions, USD)Implementing AgencySectorDescription
ECONOMIC
1. Transformation with Africa (DTA) Initiative$800 millionUnited States Agency for International Development (USAID), U.S. Department of State, Millennium Challenge Corporation, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM), U.S. Trade and Development Agency, U.S. Department of CommerceDigitalThe new Digital Transformation with Africa (DTA) initiative will expand digital access and literacy and strengthen digital enabling environments across the continent. Working with Congress, this initiative intends to invest over $350 million and facilitate over $450 million in loan financing for Africa in line with the African Union’s Digital Transformation Strategy and the U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa.
[source]
2. Mastercard’s Community Pass Network$50 millionU.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC)DigitalA collaboration between the DFC and Mastercard will increase support to financial institutions, agricultural and technology companies, and businesses engaged with Mastercard’s Community Pass, a digital platform working to address digital infrastructure challenges in rural communities.
[source]
3. Bolstering Power Africa$4 millionU.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA)EnergyUSTDA is investing nearly $4 million to support a just energy transition across several African countries. These investments include Biomass power plant in Cote d’Ivoire, clean hydroelectric power in Sierra Leone and battery energy storage technology project in Zambia.
[source]
4. Health Electrification and Telecommunication Alliance (HETA)$150 million United States Agency for International Development (USAID)EnergyThe Health Electrification and Telecommunication Alliance is a five-year cooperative agreement that will invest USAID resources to leverage more than $150 million of additional private sector resources to install reliable, renewable power and provide mobile network and Internet access for at least 10,000 health facilities in Africa.
[source]
5. African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP)$1 millionU.S. Department of StateEntrepreneurshipWorking with Congress, the United States will provide $1 million to fund small grants to train and support women entrepreneurs in Africa.
[source]
6. Investments in African Enterprises$38.84 millionU.S. African Development Foundation (USADF)EntrepreneurshipWorking with Congress, in 2023, USADF plans to implement new projects that will invest $56.84 million, of which $18 million is expected to be leveraged from the private sector and other donors.
[source]
7. Memorandum of Understanding$5 millionU.S. African Development Foundation (USADF)EntrepreneurshipUSADF and the Government of Namibia signed a Memorandum of Understanding announcing a five-year, $10 million partnership. Under the partnership, USADF and Namibia’s Ministry of Industrialization and Trade each will contribute $5 million to provide grant investments to increase competitiveness of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in rural communities in Namibia, with special focus on women and youth.
[source]
8. Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Partnership to Encourage African Entrepreneurship$4 millionU.S. African Development Foundation (USADF)EntrepreneurshipThe U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF), working with Congress, plans to contribute up to $4 million to provide investment toolkits in the form of non-repayable capital of up to $5,000 to African entrepreneurs and micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).
[source]
9. Investments in Food Security, Renewable Energy, and Health$369 millionU.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC)Food Security, Energy, HealthThe DFC announced $369 million in new investments across Africa in food security, renewable energy infrastructure, and health.
[source]
10. Accelerating Women’s Empowerment in Energy (AWEE)$1 millionU.S. Department of StateGenderThe Department of State announced the Accelerating Women’s Empowerment in Energy (AWEE) grant-making project with an initial investment of $1 million to help secure women’s economic futures through green jobs, with a focus on the clean energy sector Kenya and South Africa.
[source]
11. Transform Health Fund$11 millionUnited States Agency for International Development (USAID); U.S International Development Finance Corporation (DFC)HealthUSAID and the DFC announced the Transform Health Fund and plan to provide $1 million in catalytic grant funding and $10 million in equity financing, respectively, to support locally-led supply chain transformation, innovative care delivery, and digital solutions to secure Africa’s healthcare future.
[source]
12. Benin-Niger Regional Transport Compact$504 millionMillennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)InfrastructureThe Benin-Niger Regional Transport Compact is designed to reduce transportation costs along the corridor between the Port of Cotonou in Benin and Niger’s capital city of Niamey. MCC will invest $202 million in Benin and $302 million in Niger, including $15 million in contributions from the governments of Benin and Niger.
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13. Climate Action Infrastructure Facility$10 millionUnited States Agency for International Development (USAID)InfrastructureUSAID intends to contribute $10 million in Africa to facilities and funds that bring private investors and donors together to support large-scale climate solutions in emerging and frontier markets.
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14. Prosper Africa Initiative: Africa Conservation and Communities Tourism Fund$2.5 millionUnited States Agency for International Development (USAID)TourismUSAID announced a new Prosper Africa partnership with ThirdWay Partners and The Nature Conservancy to protect African landscapes and bolster the tourism sector, with $2.5 million in catalytic funding from USAID.
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15. Memorandum of Understanding$500 millionThe Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM)TradeEXIM and the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) signed a $500 million Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to expand Diaspora commercial engagement across Africa, increase access and awareness of both institutions’ financial products, and support exports of U.S. goods and services.
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16. Memorandum of Understanding$500 millionThe Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM)TradeEXIM and the Africa Finance Corporation signed a $500 million MoU to facilitate U.S. goods and services exports, promote U.S.-Africa trade, and support financing of trade-enabling projects.
[source]
17. Memorandum of Understanding$300 millionThe Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM)TradeEXIM and Africa50 signed an MoU to facilitate up to $300 million in EXIM financing for the export of U.S. goods and services to buyers throughout Africa, particularly in support of infrastructure, transportation, digital technology, and renewable energy projects.
[source]
18. Prosper Africa$170 millionUnited States Agency for International Development (USAID)TradeProsper Africa plans to invest $170 million to boost African exports and U.S. investment in the continent.* *NOTE: it is not clear whether the new Prosper Africa-associated initiatives that were announced separately are included in this sum.
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GOVERNANCE
19. African Democratic and Political Transition (ADAPT) Initiative$75 millionUnited States Agency for International Development (USAID):U.S. Department of StateGovernanceOver three years, the Biden-Harris administration intends to work with Congress to invest $75 million for this initiative to counter democratic backsliding in partnership with regional bodies, governments, and civil society in support of durable political transitions.
[source]
20. Electoral Assistance$165 millionUnited States Agency for International Development (USAID); U.S Department of StateGovernanceWorking with Congress, the United States plans to provide over $165 million to support elections and good governance in Africa in 2023.
[source]
21. International Visitor Leadership Program Project on Transparency and Accountability in Government$0.475 millionU.S. Department of StateGovernanceThis $475,000 project promotes transparency and accountability in government to ensure public trust in the integrity and fairness of elected officials, public servants, and institutions.
[source]
HUMANITARIAN
22. Emergency Humanitarian Assistance to Chad$2.5 millionUnited States Agency for International Development (USAID)Humanitarian AssistanceUSAID provided an additional $2.5 million in humanitarian assistance following unprecedented flooding in Chad.
[source]
23. Humanitarian Assistance in Somalia$ 411 millionUnited States Agency for International Development (USAID)Humanitarian AssistanceUSAID announced an additional $411 million in new funding for food security in Somalia.
[source]
24. Humanitarian Assistance to Africa$2,000 millionUnited States Agency for International Development (USAID)Humanitarian AssistanceUSAID plans to provide $2 billion in humanitarian assistance to support crisis-affected people in Africa.
[source]
SECURITY
25. 21st Partnership for African Security (21PAS)$100 millionU.S. Department of Defense (DoD)SecurityWorking with Congress, this $100 million, three-year pilot program will support U.S. and African partners to coordinate, share, and enhance solutions to security challenges. Illustrative areas of 21PAS support could be regional maritime cooperation, information sharing networks, counterterrorism, logistics, institutional capacity building, professionalization, operational support, excess defense articles, exercise development and execution, etc.
[source]
26. Civil Society Partnerships for Civilian Security$2 millionU.S. Department of StateSecurityWorking with Congress, the Department of State plans to invest at least $2 million to develop a new initiative that facilitates civil society engagement in the security sector.
[source]
SOCIAL
27. African Descent Social Entrepreneurship Network$0.5 millionU.S. Department of StateEntrepreneurshipThe Department of State intends to provide $500,000 to launch the African Descent Social Entrepreneurship Network, a collaboration tool for leaders to share best practices for economic prosperity through social entrepreneurship.
[source]
28. Multilateral Partnership for Organizing, Worker Empowerment and Rights$5 millionU.S. Department of LaborGenderThe U.S. Labor Department awarded a $5 million cooperative agreement to the Solidarity Center to support women’s participation in the workplace, particularly in Liberia and Nigeria.
[source]
29. President’s Malaria Initiative and President’s Energy Plan for AIDS Relief: Partnerships to Accelerate Primary Healthcare$415 millionUnited States Agency for International Development (USAID); U.S. Department of StateHealthUSAID announced a $415 collaboration to advance primary health care in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, and Nigeria. The partnership, in collaboration with the United States President’s Malaria Initiative and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), aims to demonstrate measurable improvements in primary healthcare outcomes.
[source]
30. Exchange Scholarships$0.09 millionU.S. Department of StateHuman Capital DevelopmentWorking with Congress, the Department of State plans to award up to 50 scholarships, totaling approximately $90,000, to exchange visitors from across Africa.
[source]
31. University Partnerships Initiative (UPI)$1.5 millionU.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of EducationHuman Capital DevelopmentThe Department of Education will provide $1.5 million to facilitate U.S.-Africa university exchanges, joint research, collaboration on academic administration, and public-private partnerships.
[source]
32. Young African Leaders Initiative Young African Leaders Exchange YALI Alumni Expo and Trade Show$100 millionUnited States Agency for International Development (USAID)Human Capital DevelopmentAs part of a $100 million planned expansion of YALI, USAID will facilitate the first pan-African YALI Alumni Expo and Trade Show and create the Young African Leaders Exchange, the first pan-African virtual platform connecting YALI alumni and key stakeholders.
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33. Grant to Combat Child Labor in West Africa’s Agriculture Sector$4 millionU.S. Department of LaborHuman RightsThe U.S. Department of Labor announced a $4 million grant to support the International Labor Organization’s work to implement a technical assistance project in West Africa in line with the ECOWAS regional plan of action to address child labor.
[source]
NOTES: This table includes the new initiatives first announced during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit between December 13 through 15, 2022, including memoranda of understanding, investments, financing, public-private partnerships and other U.S. government commitments. Pre-existing initiatives announced prior to the summit and those without a U.S. dollar amount specified have been omitted from this table. In some cases, U.S. Congressional authorization will be required to release the announced financial resources.

SOURCE: Carnegie Africa Program analysis of official announcements during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit
  1. Moving From Aid to Trade and InvestmentsA crucial but underappreciated thread running through the dozens of new initiatives announced at the ALS is their predominant focus on facilitating trade and investments in human and physical capital. In our assessment of the thirty-three new initiatives to be implemented with public funding, eighteen are in economic sectors that will facilitate trade, investments, entrepreneurship, and jobs creation (see Table above). Separately, $15.7 billion worth of private sector investments and partnerships were showcased in a deal room coordinated by the Prosper Africa initiative. This unprecedented shift “from aid to trade” was reiterated by Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on the second day of the summit. She explained that the U.S. government wants to “move from just aid – yes, we need aid – but move beyond just aid to investment . . . and partnership to unlock the potential of the private sector to the benefit of [all] of our countries.” This move is likely in part a response to decades of advocacy by scholars and policymakers. And it is warranted, because a persistent humanitarian approach to Africa to the exclusion of all else creates pathologies of unhelpful dependency among recipients of handouts, insufficient focus on the drivers of inclusive growth that will raise incomes and meaningfully pull people out of poverty, and perverse incentives for the continuation of the status quo by a small coterie of connected beneficiaries.
  2. Supporting Key Pan-African InitiativesThroughout the summit, the U.S. government gave deference to the continent’s pan-African flagship initiatives. The fifty countries invited to the summit were those in good standing with the AU. The $55 billion pledge is broadly aimed at supporting the AU’s Agenda 2063, the continent’s blueprint for its economic and social transformation. A new Digital Transformation with Africa (DTA) initiative will invest over $350 million and facilitate over $450 million in financing for Africa, in line with the AU’s Digital Transformation Strategy. The Export-Import Bank of the United States signed three memoranda of understanding worth $1.3 billion with Afreximbank, the Africa Finance Corporation, and the Africa50 infrastructure fund to support the expansion of U.S.-Africa trade. These U.S. government efforts in partnership with pan-African institutions, such as the signing of a memorandum to support the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) implementation, help dispel erstwhile suspicions that the pursuit of a bilateral U.S.-Kenya Free Trade Agreement will deliberately undermine the AfCFTA.

A QUALIFIED SUCCESS

The outcomes of the ALS demonstrate a decisive paradigm shift in how the United States views Africa—as a continent central to the future of the global economy and the international order. To that end, the summit advanced the realization of the twenty-first-century U.S.-Africa partnership promised in the strategy document published in August 2022. Although this evolution in the U.S. approach to Africa is happening against the backdrop of intensifying great power competition with rivals like China, Washington appears to be finally reframing its relationship with the continent in largely positive terms by bringing to the table America’s core strengths in private capital, advanced technologies, and soft power including the large African diaspora.

Still, so much of the trust that is slowly being rebuilt between African countries and the United States hinges on the financing and implementation of the dozens of initiatives announced at the summit. To that end, the performance of seasoned Ambassador Johnnie Carson, who has just been appointed to coordinate execution efforts as the Special Presidential Representative for U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Implementation, will make or break this progress. Whether the Biden administration can secure authorization from Congress to provide much of the $55 billion pledged is another decisive factor. Ultimately, the responsibility for the sustained economic and social transformation of the African continent espoused in Agenda 2063 lies with African countries themselves.

Source: Carnegieendowment.org

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