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What the US-Africa Leaders Summit achieved – Under Secretary 

U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and Environment Jose Fernandez, in Washington DC, discussed the outcomes of the recently concluded U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. Excerpts: 

A busy week 

We had a busy week over the course of the summit, my team and I had productive discussions on how the U.S. and African nations can partner to tackle global challenges – challenges that affect us all. And the foundation of all of this is partnership. Partnership is a foundation of President Biden’s strategy for Africa because we know that we can’t address the challenges of our time without bringing everyone to the table. That means government at every level, institutions, the private sector, and the African diaspora.   

Because when we talk about priorities like conservation, climate change, clean energy transition, supply chains, investment, entrepreneurship, and innovation, we need the full force of our collaboration to be successful because we’re not going to be able to tackle these challenges alone.   

As the President announced, the administration plans to invest at least $55 billion in Africa over the next three years, working closely with our Congress. New investment and policy initiatives at the summit included the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the U.S. and the African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat in order to promote equitable, sustainable, and inclusive trade – trade that will be continent-wide and the trade that will open up a $3.4 trillion market of 1.3 billion people. That is a large market – it’s a huge market – and that’s what we intend to work on with this memorandum of understanding.   

The Millennium Corporation 

The Millennium Challenge Corporation also announced its first regional compact, totaling $504 million, with the Government of Benin, and Niger, to support regional integration, trade, and cross-border collaboration in those two countries. In addition, the Millennium Challenge Corporation announced that the Gambia and Togo are eligible to develop their first compacts, that Senegal is eligible to develop a regional compact, and that Mauritania is eligible to develop a threshold program.   

Then, on December 13th, Nigeria and Rwanda became the first African countries to sign the Artemis Accords. The Artemis Accords are based on the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which were principles that advanced the safe, sustainable, and responsible exploration and use of outer space.   

During the week I also had productive discussions with public and private sector partners on strengthening critical minerals and battery supply chains that help grow our economies and tackle the climate crisis. This work continues. It continues to deepen collaboration to support diverse and secure critical mineral supply chains at all stages – not only on the mining side but also on the processing side.   

And to that end, I was pleased to join the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia – Presidents Tshisekedi and Hichilema – to sign a memorandum of understanding to demonstrate U.S. support for the DRC-Zambia cooperation agreement to build a processing plant on the DRC-Zambia border. This is an agreement that’s going to develop an electric vehicle value chain to help reduce carbon emissions and also support global response to the climate crisis. And the plan is to develop an EV battery supply chain that opens the door for U.S. and likeminded investors to keep more value added in Africa.   

I also spent some time and met with several of my counterparts from the DRC to continue our discussion on identifying ways to expand opportunities for sustainable economic development through the U.S.-DRC Sustainable Development Solutions Working Group that we established a couple of months ago, following Secretary Blinken’s trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Together we will continue to assess in this working group the environmental and social impacts of oil and gas exploration that will help achieve the DRC’s stated objective of ensuring that critical ecosystems are not damaged – are not damaged by potential extractive activities.   

Public-private partnerships 

We also discussed in every forum that we had how public-private partnerships can facilitate entrepreneurship and innovation. This is important because with Africa’s large youthful population, we need to find ways to bolster these partnerships by engaging with the private sector, including a – we have a delegation planned to go to Ghana in February that was announced at the summit’s innovation gathering. We also facilitate ecologically sound trade and investment between the U.S. and African nations, and advanced diplomacy and look for all ways to create growth, opportunity, and employment.  

Opportunities 

The challenges and opportunities of the current moment are not just African issues or, frankly, just American issues. They are global priorities, and we are committed to working hand in hand with African nations and institutions on these priorities. We are not going to be able to move forward on them without the support of the African nations, without cooperating with the African nations. And I think during the summit, we delivered on that goal and we will continue working hard to make it a reality going forward.  

Trade and investment 

We announced plans to commit at least $55 billion – $55 billion – to Africa over the next three years across a wide range of sectors to tackle the core challenges of our time. I’m not going to get into the specifics of each program; we’d be here all morning. But they involve a wide range of sectors that reflect our shared interest and renewed partnerships – sectors such as food security, health, climate, trade and investment, economic growth, and also education, peace and security, and democracy. I don’t – and goals that are essential if we are going to achieve inclusive and wide-ranging growth in the region, in Africa, together.  

This is an assistance that’s expected to build on the U.S.’s engagement – longstanding engagement – in the development, economic growth, health and security in Africa over the last three decades, but it also – it also aims to leverage the best of America that we have to offer: our civil society, our private sector, our government institutions, in order to partner with African countries to meet today’s defining challenges and opportunities. And that, again, it’s essential to create a baseline to continue growth.   

I hear your question on the – on historically U.S. and African relations being related more to humanitarian assistance, but I – our companies have been involved in Africa for decades, and many have done quite well in several sectors: consumers, mining and the like. And also, let’s, as we talk about U.S.-Africa relations, let’s not forget something that we are very proud of, and that’s our PEPFAR program, a program that to this day has – is considered by many to be the most successful AIDS program ever. It’s a program that today over 5 million babies have been born HIV-free. We have more than 20 million women, men, and children living on lifesaving treatments. It’s something that we are very proud of, and it’s – it is a program that we will continue because health, as we’ve discovered with the pandemic, the COVID pandemic, is something that we need to continue and it is a requirement, it is a baseline for growth.  

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