US Vice President Kamala Harris kicks off Africa trip
US Vice President Kamala Harris met with Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo on Monday, praising him for his "democratic principles" and pledging more than $100 million (€ 93 million) in an aid package to the country.
Harris visited the country's presidential palace — the Jubilee House — and vowed to help Ghana with their regional security issues and deteriorating economy.
"Under your leadership, Ghana has been a beacon of democracy and a contributor to global peace and security," she said to the Ghanaian President after their meeting.
Akufo-Addo called for solidarity from the US for countries like Ghana to bring their economies "back on track."
He also voiced his concern that private American investors neglect the country and that he wants "to be able to change that dynamic."
However, the release of some of the aid money vowed by Harris might prove difficult due to partisan differences over the federal budget.
When did she arrive?
Harris arrived in Ghana on Sunday, her first stop in her weeklong tour to Africa.
Harris was welcomed at Accra's Kotoka International airport by schoolchildren who cheered and waved Ghanaian and American flags.
Harris, who is being accompanied by her husband Douglas Emhoff on the trip, placed her hand on her heart and smiled broadly as she stepped off the plane after an overnight trip.
"We are looking forward to this trip as a further statement of the long and enduring and very important relationship and friendship between the people of the United States and those who live on the continent of Africa," Harris said.
She said she was "very excited about the future of Africa," adding that she would be discussing issues like increasing food security, climate change, and growing investment on the continent.
What's on the agenda?
Harris will spend three nights in Ghana, two nights in Tanzania, and one in Zambia. She is the highest-ranking member of the Biden administration to visit Africa this year.
She is due to deliver a speech in Accra and visit Cape Coast Castle, where enslaved Africans were once loaded onto ships bound for America.
She will meet with leaders of each country and lay a wreath to commemorate the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Dar es Salaam, in Tanzania.
Her agenda also includes several less traditional stops to highlight the future of the continent where the median age is just 19.
US seeks to repair ties with Africa
Relations between the US and Africa deteriorated badly under former President Donald Trump's administration and the Biden administration has sought to repair damaged ties.
The US unveiled an African strategy in August last year, with an eye on bolstering democracy on the continent.
In December, Biden hosted a summit with African leaders in Washington. He has also announced support for the African Union becoming a permanent member of the Group of 20 nations.
US looking to counter China, Russia influence
Harris is arriving in West Africa at a time of geopolitical rivalry, as China and Russia expand their influence in the continent by providing economic and security assistance.
Though White House officials have stressed Harris's trip concerns the US relationship with Africa only, the continent remains of great strategic importance as the US recalibrates its foreign policy with a focus on China.
China has established an enormous presence on the continent, whether by expanding telecommunication networks or building infrastructure.
Ghana reached a $2 billion (€1.8 billion) deal with a Chinese company to develop roads and other projects in return for access to a key mineral for producing aluminum.
While Ghana is one of the continent's most stable democracies, its economy faces a debt crisis and soaring inflation.
Russia has shared decades-long partnerships with Africa, with the Wagner mercenary group increasingly gaining a foothold in countries like Mali after French forces were pushed out.
Moscow banks on the neutrality of many African countries on the war in Ukraine to maintain its stance too. The war's knock-on effects like soaring food prices, however, have hurt many African economies.
rm/kb (AP, AFP)