Vice President Kamala Harris recently kicked off her first official visit to Africa. She is scheduled to stop in Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia while on the continent. Her trip came at a critical time as the United States faces increasing challenges with China and Russia, who have been rapidly increasing their influence on the continent. There have been several visits to the African continent made recently by United States officials, showing the current administration is aware of the race other nations are in – specifically China and Russia – to secure bilateral relations with the continent.
Vice President Harris’ week-long trip will see her discuss a range of issues including economic development, democracy, security, and the COVID-19 pandemic. She will meet with Nana Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana, on Monday, March 27th. After her time in Ghana, she will travel to Tanzania, where she will meet with Tanzania’s first female President Samia Suluhu Hassan, and then visit Zambia before returning to Washington, D.C. on April 2nd.
In a radio interview, Vice President Harris, in relation to her upcoming trip, said, “I’m going to Africa mainly to talk with African leaders about what we as the United States are prepared to do to have our role in investing in the future of that continent.”
One of the biggest challenges the United States faces in Africa is China and Russia’s increasing presence on the continent. China and Russia have been aggressively pursuing economic and diplomatic ties with several African nations, investing heavily in infrastructure projects and providing loans to governments. This has allowed both China and Russia to gain significant influence in the region, potentially at the expense of the United States.
China has invested billions of dollars in Africa over the past decade, building infrastructure, financing projects, and offering low-interest loans to governments. This has allowed China to become Africa’s largest trading partner, surpassing both the United States and Europe.
Vice President Harris acknowledged the importance of competing with China and Russia in Africa. She also highlighted the United States’ commitment to supporting African countries in their economic development and efforts to combat climate change. According to Reuters, a senior U.S. official was quoted saying that while on her trip, Vice President Harris would “discuss the best ways for the international community to address debt challenges faced by Ghana and Zambia.”
Upon arriving in Ghana on Sunday, March 26th, Vice President Harris said, “I’m very excited about the impact of Africa on the rest of the world.”
The United States’ competition with China and Russia on the African continent is not limited to economic and diplomatic ties. Most recently Russia and South Africa conducted joint military drills. Russia has also been actively involved in military and security cooperation with other African countries, which has raised concerns among some Western powers.
China and Russia have been offering military aid and training to African governments, including support for peacekeeping operations and counterterrorism measures. This has allowed China to establish military bases in Djibouti and expand its influence in the region.
Vice President Harris acknowledged these concerns, with a senior U.S. official stating, “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 out-compete China in the long term.” She emphasized the importance of working with African Countries to address security challenges in the region and promote peace and stability.
Vice President Harris’ trip to Africa highlights the United States’ commitment to strengthening ties with African countries and supporting their economic development and security. It also underscores the challenges the United States faces with China and Russia’s increasing influence on the continent. As the competition between the superpowers intensifies, it remains to be seen how this will impact Africa’s future and the role the United States will play in shaping it.