United States Vice-President, Kamala Devi Harris is in Ghana for a visit
United States Vice-President, Kamala Devi Harris is in Ghana for a visit

Akwaaba Kamala: US Vice-President on first visit to Ghana, Africa

In what confirms Ghana as the gateway to Africa, (US) United States Vice-President, Kamala Devi Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, have arrived in the country, as they begin a week-long three-nation African visit.

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The second couple of the United States of America, who arrived yesterday, are visiting Accra, Ghana from March 26 to 29, then Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from March 29 to 31. Their final stop will be Lusaka, Zambia on March 31 and April 1, according to official communication.

The visit is not only the first to Africa by the US Vice-President, but also the first time a Black US Vice-President is visiting Africa, as well as the highest profile trip yet by the current US administration, as she is the most senior Biden administration official to visit the continent.

High profile visits

It must be put on record, though, that Vice-President Kamala Harris’s visit follows other high profile ones already made to the continent, such as First Lady Jill Biden’s five-day trip to Namibia and Kenya earlier this month. 

Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, in 10 days, also, visited Senegal, Zambia and South Africa in January, while US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, visited Ghana, Mozambique and Kenya in the same month this year. 

US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, also travelled to Ethiopia and Niger in the third week of March this year, while President Joe Biden is expected to visit the continent later this year. 

Purpose

A statement issued on Monday, March 13, 2023, on the Vice-President’s visit, by her Press Secretary, Kirsten Allen, said it would "strengthen the United States' partnerships throughout Africa and advance our shared effort on security and economic prosperity."

"Throughout the trip, in partnership with African governments and the private sector, the Vice-President will advance efforts to expand access to the digital economy, support climate adaptation and resilience, and strengthen business ties and investment, including through innovation, entrepreneurship, and the economic empowerment of women," the Press Secretary wrote.

Vice-President Harris is expected to hold bilateral meetings with President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President Samia Hassan of Tanzania and President Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia, to discuss "regional and global priorities, including our shared commitment to democracy, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, food security, and the effects of Russia's unprovoked war in Ukraine, among other issues," the statement indicated.

Through the visit, Vice-President Harris plans to build on the commitments made during the US-Africa Leaders Summit last December, when President Joe Biden hosted nearly 50 African leaders in Washington. 

In her remarks at the time, Vice-President Harris framed the US as the preferable choice over China and Russia.

"Our administration will invest our time and our energy to fortify partnerships across the continent. Partnerships grounded in candor, openness, inclusiveness, shared interests and mutual benefits," she said at the summit. 

"And overall, our administration will be guided not by what we can do for Africa but what we can do with Africa," she added.

The Vice President will also engage with civil society, including young leaders, business representatives, entrepreneurs, and members of the African Diaspora.

Vice-President Harris’ trip comes as the administration seeks to bolster its relationship with African countries, as  Russia and China have made inroads in the region.

Although relationship between the US and China has been the backdrop of much American foreign policy, the Democratic administration is trying to calibrate its approach to Africa so leaders on the continent do not feel as though they are being caught in the middle of a geopolitical contest.

A senior administration official stressed that the White House wanted to put forward an "affirmative agenda" that incorporated concerns about China and the ripple effects from Russia's war in Ukraine but wasn't dominated by them, an Africanews report stated.

Vice-President Harris’s trip may also feel like a sort of homecoming after she spent time in Zambia as a young girl in the 1960s, when visiting her maternal grandfather who was on assignment in his role as an Indian civil servant, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Her visit to Ghana is also seen as a reciprocal one after her first encounter with President Akufo-Addo, when he not only visited the US for bilateral talks in September 2021, but also met with the Vice-President in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington (see page SS 13).

Tweet

In a tweet on March 13, 2023, Vice-President Harris said she was looking forward to a productive trip.

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“Later this month, @SecondGentleman and I will travel to Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia as part of our Administration’s efforts to strengthen partnerships throughout Africa and advance our shared efforts on security and economic prosperity.

“I look forward to a productive trip,” the tweet indicated.

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