July 15, 2024

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Background Press Call Previewing the Vice President’s Trip to Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia

Background Press Call Previewing the Vice President’s Trip to Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia
Background Press Call Previewing the Vice President’s Trip to Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia

Via teleconference 7:05 P.M. EDT SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Hey, thanks, [operator].  And hi, everyone.  Thanks for joining us this evening.  To set the ground rules, tonight’s call is on background, attributed to “senior administration officials.”  And the contents are embargoed until Friday, March 24th, at 5 o’clock a.m. Eastern.  Again, that’s 5:00 o’clock a.m. Eastern.  […]

The post Background Press Call Previewing the Vice President’s Trip to Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia first appeared on Social Gov.

Via teleconference

7:05 P.M. EDT

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Hey, thanks, [operator].  And hi, everyone.  Thanks for joining us this evening. 

To set the ground rules, tonight’s call is on background, attributed to “senior administration officials.”  And the contents are embargoed until Friday, March 24th, at 5 o’clock a.m. Eastern.  Again, that’s 5:00 o’clock a.m. Eastern.  I know some of the invites had a different time, but this is embargoed until 5:00 a.m.  By joining this call, you are agreeing to the ground rules.

The speakers today, you have myself, from the Office of the Vice President, you have [senior administration official], and you also have [senior administration official] on the line, hereinafter all referred to as “senior administration officials.”

We’ll give some comments at the top, and then we will open it up for some Q&A.

So I will kick us off by just saying, as you know, the Vice President is traveling to Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia.  This is a follow-up to the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in December 2022, in an effort to make good on President Biden’s commitment that we are, quote, “all in” with Africa. 

Her visit is the fifth major trip from a senior administration official since the summit, and it comes on the heels of travel by Secretary Yellen, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, the First Lady, and Secretary Blinken, most recently.

The Vice President is visiting these three countries where the governments are investing in their democracies specifically at a time where we know there is a global democratic recession.  The United States views Africa as critical to addressing global challenges, and we view her visit as another opportunity to consult and engage with partners on our shared objectives.

As many of you know, the Vice President previously met with all three of the leaders in these countries in Washington, and she looks forward to deepening the U.S. partnership and her relationship with each of these leaders on this trip.

I will — can give you a brief overview of her schedule.

She is departing Washington on Saturday evening and arrives in Ghana on Sunday afternoon.

On Monday, the Vice President will have a bilateral meeting with President Akufo-Addo of Ghana.  She will also visit a local recording studio in Accra and meet with young people in the creative industry.

On Tuesday, the Vice President will deliver a major speech to an audience of young people.  She will then visit the Cape Coast slave castle, which will include a tour and a set of remarks there.  She will, at the Cape Coast Castle, speak about the brutality of slavery and the African Diaspora.

On Wednesday, in Accra, the Vice President will meet with women entrepreneurs and discuss the economic empowerment of women.  We anticipate she will announce, at this setting, a continent- — a series of continent-wide public and private sector investments to help close the digital gender divide and to empower women economically more broadly. 

Then, on Wednesday afternoon, she will depart Accra for Dar es Salaam.

On Thursday, in Tanzania, the Vice President will meet with President Samia.  She will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony to commemorate the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy there.  And she will then meet with entrepreneurs at a tech incubator and co-working space in Dar.

On Friday, the Vice President will depart Tanzania for Lusaka, Zambia.  She — once there, she will meet with President Hichilema.

And on Saturday, still in Lusaka, the Vice President will focus her day on climate adaptation and resilience and food security.  We anticipate, again, she will have a number of continent-wide public and private sector investments to announce and will engage with those involved in these efforts in climate resilience and food security on the ground.

Lastly, in Lusaka, on Saturday, April 1st, the Vice President will convene business and philanthropic leaders, from both the continent and from the United States, to discuss digital and financial inclusion on the continent.  They will discuss how to best partner together and build on the work of her trip and all the private sector announcements that she announced on the trip.

And she will depart Lusaka on Saturday evening and return to Washington on Sunday morning.

So, just more broadly, in terms of how the Vice President is approaching the trip, I would point you to her remarks that she gave in December 2022 at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Diaspora Forum.

In those remarks, she made clear that, one, she believes African innovations and ideas will shape the future of the world.  And two, she made clear that we are committed to invest in the ingenuity and creativity that is so prevalent across the continent in order to unlock economic growth and opportunities.

So you can expect a lot of this trip to Africa will build on this theme, and this will remain a focus of hers.

Again, she remains very much focused on the future of Africa, and it’s a future-looking trip, in recognition that the median age of the continent is 19, and by 2050, one in four people on the planet will be on the African continent.

So again, that will be driving force for this trip.  And as part of that, she is looking forward to engaging with young creatives, tech entrepreneurs, as I mentioned, and other young people throughout the visit to highlight the dynamism on the continent and how African innovations have and will continue to benefit the entire world.

Another element of the trip that we should mention is, you know, too often all the cutting-edge technology and innovative solutions that are proliferating across the continent — they are overlooked by too many outside the continent, and we believe her trip can help change that dynamic. 

Overall, we are working to change how government, the private sector, civil society, and the American people think about Africa and its place in our world.  And as part of this, we want to dismantle long-held and often outdated notions of what it means to live, work, and invest in Africa. 

As part of this work, the Vice President has been working and will continue to work with the private sector to spur investments that build upon and complement our own government efforts on the continent.  And we anticipate that private sector collaboration will be a major component of her trip. 

As you have heard her said before, she is a big believer in the power of public-private partnerships around the world, and throughout her engagements she will be making the case that to unlock growth and opportunity on the continent, we all need to come together and collaborate.  Again, all of this with a focus on the economic empowerment of women, climate resilience, and the digital economy.

And then, before I pass off to my colleague, I will just say a note about people-to-people ties, because we know that when the Vice President travels overseas, there is a tremendous energy and excitement in foreign countries, particularly from young people, and we anticipate that excitement and that energy will be apparent throughout Africa throughout her trip.

She always makes a point on trips like this to get outside of government buildings and engage directly with people, whether it’s entrepreneurs, students, and activists, and she will do that here.

You can’t overstate the significance of this visit to our people-to-people ties, which, as you’ve heard us say, are a source of strength and competitive advantage to the United States.  And as you know, our administration has committed to elevate our engagement with the African Diaspora as part of our broader Africa policy, including, as you may recall, the Vice President announced in December the creation of the President’s Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement.

And lastly, on people-to-people ties, as many of you know, when the Vice President was a young girl, she traveled to Zambia.  Her maternal grandfather — which is her Indian grandfather — was a civil servant in India who worked for several years in the Zambian government on refugee resettlement issues shortly after Zambia gained its independence in the ‘60s.  So the Vice President is very much looking forward to returning to Lusaka, which is a part of her family’s story and a source of pride.  And we will have more to say on this as we get closer to that portion of our trip.

So, with that, I will now hand it off to my colleague to speak a little bit more about some of the foreign policy of this visit.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks, [senior administration official].  And thanks, everyone, for joining.

I will just add a little bit about the foreign policy and geopolitical aspects of the trip, starting with our partnership with Africans.

This trip is an early opportunity, following the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, which was just a couple of months ago, to put into practice at the highest level of the Biden-Harris administration the type of partnership that we talked about, that the Vice President and the President talked about at the summit, which is one in which we are guided not by what we can do for Africa but by what we can do with Africa, which is really a theme of this administration’s Africa policy.

And by this, what we mean is that it’s a partnership, it’s not a one-way street, it’s not about imposing solutions, and it’s not just about foreign aid or humanitarian assistance.  It’s about mutual investment and mutual economic growth and creative partnerships and deep people-to-people connections between the American people and the people on the African continent. 

It’s about give-and-take and learning from each other and frank dialogue.  And that is, frankly, how we approach our partnerships around the world in this administration, and our partnerships on the continent of Africa are no different.

On the bilateral meetings that the Vice President will hold in the three capitals, they’ll be wide-ranging discussions, but I think you can expect at a minimum that she will discuss regional security, strengthening business ties, debt relief and restructuring and long-term economic growth, democracy and good governance, support for international rules and norms, the impacts of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and our concerns with China’s engagement on the continent.

In each country, she will have a series of deliverables to strengthen our partnerships on a very wide range of issues, from commercial engagement to public health, gender equity, democracy, and more.

I mentioned geopolitical issues, and there are high geopolitical stakes involved in our relationships with Africa.

As we have said, our administration recognizes the strategic importance of African nations in global affairs.  They are major players on issues that matter greatly to the United States and the American people: food security, the climate crisis, resilient supply chains. 

And African partners are also invaluable partners at the U.N. and on major geopolitical issues of our time.  I think that’s increasingly the case, which is one reason we’re so invested in these partnerships.  So it’s a trip not just about regional issues, of which there are many, but about global issues. 

On the question of China, the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit made clear that our relationship with Africa cannot and should not and will not be defined by competition with China.  The Vice President’s trip will illustrate that we have an affirmative agenda in Africa.  She’s looking forward to advancing that affirmative agenda in all of the areas that we’ve already spoken about on this call.  We’re not asking our partners in Africa to choose.  We want to expand African options, not limit them. 

Obviously, we can’t ignore the current geopolitical moment.  It’s no secret that we are engaged in competition with China.  And we’ve said very clearly we intend to outcompete China in the long term.  We’ve made clear we have real concerns about some of China’s behavior in Africa and around the world. 

But a true partnership with Africa means that we talk about and consult on elements of China’s engage- — on the elements of China’s engagement that concern us, including in the technological, economic, military, and global governance domains.  We discuss these types of issues with our partners all around the world.  And in the Vice President’s meetings in Africa will be no different. 

A word about Russia as well.  Most of you, I’m sure, heard the Vice President make very clear at the Munich Security Conference that the international community cannot overlook the impact of Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine on African countries. 

Russia’s war is not only hurting the people of Ukraine and Europe, but it’s hurting Africans and others around the world by generating rising food and commodity prices that are actually having a disproportional impact on African countries.  And we anticipate that our shared efforts with Africa to address the impact of Putin’s war will be another major topic of discussion throughout the Vice President’s meetings. 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Okay.  With that, I think we can open it up for a few questions.  To our moderator, can you please give the instructions?

Q    Thank you so much for doing this.  Regarding growth and opportunity, which you mentioned a few times, number one, is the Vice President going to be announcing any deliverables with regards to the African Growth and Opportunities Act?  Is she going to be announcing any infrastructure initiatives under the — I don’t — the project for growth initiative — whatever it was that was announced at the G7 — or anything of that ilk?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks for the question.  You know, as always, we don’t want to get too far ahead of specific deliverable announcements, but you can be sure that growth and opportunity will be a focus of the trip.  I think you were referring to PGII, the Partnership for Global Investment and Infrastructure. 

Obviously, you know, we’ve made very clear how important investment in infrastructure is in Africa and, you know, said at the summit that following up on that initiative will be another major focus. 

As for specific deliverables announcements, we’ll just have to ask you to wait for the trip.  But that broad category is certainly at the core of what the Vice President is going to do.

Q    Hi all.  Two questions for you.  First, is the Vice President at all going to kind of repeat and amplify something that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen brought up in Zambia, basically calling on China to restructure Zambia’s debt?  Obviously, as you guys are focused really on the growth potential and entrepreneurship and all that, and the economy of these African countries. 

And then secondly, I wonder if you can expand in any way on the significance of the Vice President going to Cape Coast Castle and talking about the diaspora and all that.  Obviously, the last time the continent saw a Black principal from the U.S. was when President Obama went.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, Jasmine, thanks for both of those.  I will offer some thoughts, and [senior administration official] may well want to weigh in. 

First of all, thanks for mentioning Secretary Yellen’s trip.  And I’ll remind the group that she’s one of, you know, I think, five Cabinet members — as well as the First Lady and soon the Vice President — to go to Africa.  And for some, that is a sign of our deep commitment to the continent and to these partnerships. 

And obviously, more than others, because she’s Treasury Secretary — Secretary Yellen — focused on this debt issue, which we all know is a burden on a number of African countries.  And that’s certainly the case in Zambia, where the Secretary talked about it.  And it’s also the case, as Secretary Yellen underscored, that China has a major role to play.  And so that is a core part of how we’re approaching the issue. 

Dealing with debt restructuring is necessary to advance the economic growth we want to see on the continent, and China has a major responsibility play — to play in that.  It’s a multilateral issue, but as Secretary Yellen underscored, China has a particular role to play. 

So, I — I think you can expect the Vice President to have discussions about that particular piece of it not just in Zambia, but in her meetings in other African countries as well.

On the visit to Cape Coast Castle: As my colleague mentioned, that is an issue that is going to be, I think, very meaningful to this Vice President.  It’s meaningful to many millions of Americans and others around the world. 

The Vice President will obviously have more to say on that personally. 

You mentioned the diaspora.  You’ll recall — again, as my colleague mentioned — she spoke to the Diaspora Forum at the Africa Leaders Summit.  And one of the Africa Leaders Summit deliverables was the creation of a diaspora advisory council because — the first time ever — because this administration understands the role of the diaspora, the interests in the diaspora in the continent and, I’m sure, you know, they’re — in no way or place more than on the issue of Cape Coast Castle and the slavery issue. 

So, absolutely, it’s going to be a meaningful visit to the Vice President herself and to the diaspora. 

But I’ll pause there to see if [senior administration official] has anything to add on either of those issues.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Sure.  Thanks, [senior administration official].  And hi, everyone.  I’ll just echo some points about the debt issue. 

For many countries on the continent right now, they are in pretty significant debt distress, and the combined food and fuel prices have really suppressed growth.  So particularly in Zambia, as well as in Ghana, the issue of debt will be a focus of the discussion. 

In the case of Zambia, as [senior administration official] said and as Secretary Yellen said, China holds a third — $6 billion — of Zambia’s overall external debt of $17 billion.  And so finalizing the debt treatment really does hinge on Beijing’s participation. 

So in those meetings, we expect that the Vice President will consult with President Hichilema and his team about what are the best ways in which the international community, all creditors can come to the table to address Zambia’s significant debt challenges. 

And similarly, that will be a conversation in Ghana, which is also in debt distress.  It has a different makeup of creditors.  The majority of that is actually held by private creditors, but there are significant bilateral creditors, including China.  And so, again, the Vice President will engage with President Akufo-Addo and his team to see what we can all do together to support the G20 common framework and work towards debt relief or debt restructuring — whatever is the right approach to address the significant draining and drag on these economies.

Q    Hi there.  Thanks so much for doing this.  I just had two questions.  One, could you — you talked a little bit about the security issues that the Vice President would be addressing.  Can you just sort of, from a high-level perspective, give some sense for what the sort of overall concern is, the — sort of the — describe the problem that she’ll be addressing?  I realize you can’t get ahead of the announcement. 

And then I separately have a China question.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Sure.  Again, I can start on security, and [senior administration official] may want to add. 

The three countries that the Vice President is visiting are among the more stable and secure countries on the continent.  They’re important partners of the United States, but they are affected by and threatened by security challenges across the continent, notably in terms of the first stop in Ghana, and the Sahel and the significant extremist terrorist challenges that we’ve seen there, but also challenges in internal security and the numerous coups that have taken place, some of which have led to interventions by the Russian-backed Wagner mercenary group. 

So even if the partners that the Vice President is visiting herself are, again, relatively stable and secure countries, they are affected by trends that are going on across the continent.  And one of the things the Vice President will do is both engage with the leaders there about how to deal with those challenges mutually, but also, you know, lend strong American support to preserving the security of those countries themselves. 

But again, let me give [senior administration official] a chance to weigh in on this issue as well. 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks, [senior administration official].  That’s — that’s exactly right.  In Ghana, there is growing concern about the spread of ISIS and al Qaeda’s Sahel network, known as JNIM — J-N-I-M, that operate in countries like Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali. 

The insecurity in Burkina Faso is particularly important and concerning to Ghana, where JNIM largely controls, you know, 40 percent of Burkina and has the ability to operate in probably 60 percent.  And so, the Ghanaians are particularly concerned about this threat coming down across their border.  Other coastal countries have already seen some small attacks on their border — Cote d’Ivoire and Benin. 

So that’s one of the big challenges.  There’s been a number of regional efforts to address this — the challenge.  And I suspect that the Vice President will discuss this in Accra. 

In Tanzania, it’s a different challenge.  It is ISIS’s southern and central African elements, particularly the ISIS-Mozambique group that operates in northern Mozambique, and it has done cross-border attacks into Tanzania. 

As [senior administration official] said, both of these countries, Tanzania and Ghana, are contributing to regional security.  Ghana is one of the most — the largest peacekeeping contributors and is engaged in Mali, as well as has its own effort known as the Accra Initiative.  Tanzania is part of a Southern African Development Community deployment to Mozambique known as SAMIM — S-A-M-I-M. 

So this is an opportunity to talk about the threats that they face, but the ways in which we are all working together to protect these individual countries. 

And I will say that while Zambia doesn’t face a security threat, it is also a longstanding peacekeeping contributor.

Q    Thank you.  I appreciate that.  That’s very helpful. 

And then, just and China — this is a little bit of a wonky question.  But when the United States government and the Biden administration looks at Chinese investment on the continent and the sort of gap between U.S. and Chinese investment, can you give us a sense for, like, what metrics you’re looking at?  Like, is it — is it state investment?  Is it company investment?  Like, what is the sort of kind of gap that is trying to be closed here?

I know you’re looking at, you know, billions of dollars that come from the Chinese government, or get — I’m just trying to get a sense for, like, what metrics you’re kind of looking at.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  [Senior administration official], do you want me to give a first crack at that? 


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So I think, for us, we’re looking at a metric less about dollars and about investments that are quality, that benefit Africans, that don’t undercut their sovereignty, that respect environmental — environmental issues and labor practices.  So it’s much more specific investment by investment and working with our African partners so that they are clear about what they want from investment, not just from the Chinese but from the United States and other partners. 

Right now, there’s a clear demand for infrastructure investment.  The continent has the lowest road and rail density in the world.  So that’s part of our PGII program, is to see what we can be doing in infrastructure where we are not as present as the Chinese or other players, as well as looking at supply chains, critical minerals, and energy.  So those are places that we are putting a greater emphasis on. 

But I don’t think we have — we don’t have a metric that we judge against what China is doing.  We look at projects individually to see what they mean and how they contribute to African prosperity and evaluate any of the risks they may pose to us or to our African partners.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, the only thing I’d add on that is it’s just not really the way we’re thinking about it, about a — you know, a gap with China or how much they are investing compared to what we’re investing.  We’re investing because it’s in our interest.  We think it’s in Africa’s interest to see growth and development on the continent. 

It’s not even so much the volume of China’s investment, but we do have concerns about the lack of transparency and openness and opaque business dealings and the debt situation that emerges in some cases.

But as I said in the opening remarks, our investment in Africa is more a positive and affirmative agenda of generating growth that benefits Africans and Americans alike. 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Okay.  I think we’re ready to go to our next question.

Q    Thanks so much for doing this.  You touched on this a bit before about the Vice President’s history of traveling to Zambia as a young girl.  I was wondering if you might be able to provide more details on how she planned to talk about it.  Is there a centerpiece event that she plans to address it at?

And then, I was also wondering if she plans to speak about the significance of her being the first Black Vice President and of Jamaican origin while she’s there.  Thank you so much.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, so as I said, I think you can expect her to talk about these issues throughout and in particular in Zambia.  I think we’ll have more information to share about that.  And she will have much more to say about this herself throughout the trip and in Zambia. 

But what we said at the top is sort of what, you know, just a preview of her family’s history there, but we’ll have more to share as we get closer.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  All right, I think we’re ready for our next question.

Q    Hey, thanks so much for taking my question here.  I’ve got two for you.  I’m curious how — it’s very clear that the message from the VP during this trip is going to be one that focuses on sort of the opportunities that these nations have to offer and kind of taking a positive light.  I’m wondering how she balances that with President Biden’s commitment — signing a memorandum in the first hundred days of office — to call out, address foreign governments that advance anti-LGBTQ laws and restrict human rights. 

You know, I understand she’s not going to Uganda, but we do have that decision that was recently passed.  And then also in Zambia, there were four local NGO workers who were arrested recently on allegations that they promoted homosexuality during a recent march that was supposed to be against gender-based violence.  You know, this is 1 of 33 nations on the continent that has some sort of anti-gay laws as well. 

So I’m wondering how you strike that balance, sort of highlighting what the country has to offer and courting these nations, while also calling out these human rights violations. 

The second question would be kind of connected to that, is: During her speech at — during the speech at the Cape Coast Castle as well, it was mentioned that President Obama also gave a speech there.  When he did, he called out — he said authoritarianism and corruption was holding the continent back.  And it wasn’t appreciated by some African leaders as well. 

Will she contrast, will she — or, excuse me, will she pivot from that message and only focus on the positive things that the nation — that the continent has to offer?  Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Just one clarification — thanks, Zolan — before I turn it over to my colleague.  I think you’re referring to remarks that President Obama gave in Accra, not the slave — Cape Coast slave castle.  But — just one point of clarification.  But I think my colleague will speak more to it.

But, yes, she will speak about the importance of good governance and democracy throughout her trip. 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah.  And, Zolan, thanks for the question. 

First of all, you’re right, she is very much focused on opportunities in Africa and a positive message and the great things we can do in partnership with African countries.  And you’re going to really see that as the theme of the trip, given Africa’s role in the world and what we think can be done with Africans, for the sake of Africans in the United States and the rest of the world. 

But that doesn’t mean that she would shy away from discussing difficult issues.  And you know her track record on the LGBTQ issue.  She spent her whole career fighting for rights of overlooked and marginalized people, including LGBTQ people. 

And, you know, the United States — as you said, the Biden-Harris administration is very clear about the right for all people to live free of harm and discrimination and to realize their full potential and to fully participate in society.  And the Vice President has been clear about that throughout her engagements in the United States and elsewhere in the world, and it won’t be any different when she is in Africa. 

We have said, you know, including in recent days — expressed the concerns we have about certain developments that we’ve seen on the African continent, whether it’s laws or practices that are anti-LGBTQ.  And that’s not consistent with what this administration stands for. 

So I don’t think that is a choice between taking a firm stand on that set of really important issues and the big positive opportunity that the Vice President sees in Africa and she’s going to emphasize on this trip. 

And on the second thing, you know, without getting into Obama’s speech — just talking about what the Vice President will do — absolutely, democracy will be part of her message because it’s what we believe and what she believes. 

And, you know, we’ve seen a lot of progress on the democracy front in Africa, but we’ve also seen big setbacks.  And it’s definitely the conviction of this administration.  And I can remind you that, you know, we’re co-hosting the second Summit for Democracy next week, and Zambia is the African co-host for that summit.  And we’re having that summit because the President and the Vice President firmly believe that democracy and good governance is in the interests of people all around the world. 

So that is another topic that you can absolutely expect the Vice President to underscore while she’s in Africa.  But the last thing I’ll say about it is that that’s not, you know, lecturing the Africans.  From everything we see in polling and talking to Africans, it’s what Africans want themselves.  And so this is a common agenda.  And she’s going to talk about three democrat- — talk with three democratic leaders in Africa about the importance of that agenda and what we can do together to advance it in our mutual interest. 

[Senior administration official], I’ll give you a chance if there’s anything you want to add on either of those issues.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  No, I think you covered it well.  Thanks, [senior administration official].

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I think we’re ready for our next question.

Q    Oh, yes, thank you so much for doing this.  I really appreciate it.  I have a couple of questions.  The first one is a clarifying question.  Thanks for mentioning the second democracy summit.  So, just to clarify, will she be in Zambia on the 29- — on the 29th and 30th to coincide with Zambia hosting the second democracy summit?  If you could clarify that. 

And then I heard you say that you would like to change the sort of perception of Africa, how it’s projected to the world.  Is there a strategy in changing verbiage?  Or I want to understand how will you plan to achieve that.  Yes, she will be there, and it’s a great thing that she is going there.  But I’d like to understand your thinking behind how you think you will be able to actually realize that change in perception about what Africa does, how to li- — you know, how life and everything else is in Africa.

I take your point on China.  But as well, we can’t ignore that Russia itself is going to be having a summit in a few months.  Could you maybe touch on that, if at all?  Thank you so much. 

Oh, my — my other thing was to ask: Might you be sending out a list of the delegation, like who is going to be accompanying the Vice President?  I’d be very interested to know who is going to be in that delegation.  Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Hi.  Yeah, just on the last question, the delegation, we will be sending regular updates of who is in her meetings through pool notes, per usual.  So we will be sharing that as we go. 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  On your other questions.  On the first one on the democracy summit, Secretary Cardona will be representing — leading the U.S. delegation to Zambia, who’s co-hosting.  And the Vice President will arrive the next day. 

On the issue of changing perceptions — and I apologize, some of that — I didn’t hear all of your question.  I think I understood the question about are we changing the way we talk about it.  I think you’ll just see that this will be a very future-oriented trip, focusing on innovation and technology and meeting with entrepreneurs. 

And the visits themselves will be an opportunity to highlight a lot of positive and impressive and effective things that Africans are doing.  And so, that — you know, it’s not a question of what language we use, really.  It’s just a question of drawing attention to and highlighting some — some developments in Africa that might not be consistent with expectations or old-fashioned beliefs.  So I think it’s showing rather than talking about those perceptions. 

And then finally, I’m not sure exactly what you meant about Russia.  I mean, I was clear about the Vice President will be clear in denouncing Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine and its violation of principles that we believe Africans have an interest in and believe in rules and norms of sovereignty and territorial integrity, which I think are very important to African countries and which have been blatantly violated by Russia in Ukraine. 

And this is something — you know, we’ve heard from a lot of African countries, many of whom have voted repeatedly at the United Nations to condemn Russia’s violations of these core principles.  So — and I also mentioned, you know, Russia’s support of Wagner mercenaries, who are playing a very negative role in — in some capitals across Africa. 

So the subject of Russia will come up.  And we think, you know, to the extent it comes to a choice, the United States has a lot more to offer than Russia’s negative agenda on the continent. 

[Senior administration official], again, anything you want to add, please go ahead.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, I just want to underscore some of your points about Russia. 

African countries have condemned — many have condemned Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine and recognize it as a violation of the U.N. Charter.  They also understand that the war has created grave economic hardship for many Africans, exacerbating current conditions on the ground by rising food — food and fuel prices.  And as [senior administration official] mentioned, that Russia — Russia-backed mercenaries are operating in places like the Central African Republic and Mali. 

We understand that many African countries have a historical relationship with the USSR, which supported their liberation movements.  And countries have current relationships with Russia.  But we believe that it’s important to have a conversation to identify shared points of agreement, particularly on how to have a just end to this war and how to address the negative consequences and to stand up for shared principles as many of our African partners have done in the U.N. and in other bodies.  And this is something that will almost certainly be raised in different bilateral meetings.  So, thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Okay, I think we have time for one more question.

Q    Hello? 

OPERATOR:  Kemi, please go ahead.

Q    Yes, can you hear me?


Q    Oh, okay.  Thank you.  I’m sorry.  I wanted to follow up.  Some of the questions that I have have already been answered.  So, I wanted to follow up.  I was wondering, regarding the investment aspect of the — the business aspects of (inaudible).  If you can talk about what the Vice President will focus on and if she’s bringing any American companies along.  And if you can tell us some of the names of the companies that will go along with her.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks.  You know, I already underscored that investment will be a major focus of the trip.  You know, it’s what Africans want.  And we think there are a lot of opportunities in different sectors to invest in.

There will be business representatives who play a role in and join the Vice President, but there’s nothing we can share with you in advance.  But she will be meeting with private sector representatives.  As I think we said in the opening, one of the things she’s focused on in her work all around the world, from Central America to East Asia to Southeast Asia and Europe, is partnership with the private sector.  And that’s definitely going to play a role in her work on the continent of Africa.  But we don’t have any specific company names to share with you in advance. 

Q    Okay —

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Okay, with that, that’s all the time we have this evening.  Sorry.  But we will — you know how to reach us if you want to follow up with any additional questions. 

Thanks for joining us.  Again, this call is on background, attributed to “senior administration officials.”  And it is embargoed until 5:00 a.m. Eastern Time on Friday, March 24.

And with that, thank you all very much.

                                         END                 7:49 P.M. EDT

Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2023/03/24/background-press-call-previewing-the-vice-presidents-trip-to-ghana-tanzania-and-zambia/

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