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MODERATOR:  Good afternoon to everyone from the U.S. Department of State’s Africa Regional Media Hub.  I welcome our participants dialing in from across the continent and thank all of you for joining this discussion.  Today, we are very pleased to be joined by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs Assistant Secretary of State Molly Phee, National Security Council Senior Director for African Affairs Judd Devermont, and Special Presidential Representative for U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Implementation Ambassador Johnnie Carson.  Our speakers will discuss the progress made over the last six months in implementing the achievements of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit and how these efforts highlight the U.S. commitment to the African continent.  They are joining us from Washington, D.C. 

We will begin today’s call with opening remarks from our speakers, then we will turn to your questions.  We will try to get to as many of them as we can during the briefing. 

So as a reminder, today’s call is on the record, and with that, I will turn it over to the Special Presidential Representative for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Implementation Ambassador Johnnie Carson for his opening remarks.   

AMBASSADOR CARSON:  Good – Good afternoon to everyone across Africa for tuning in today.  It’s my great honor to talk with you about the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit that took place in December of 2022 and the progress that has been made over the past six months in implementing the President’s recommendations and orders for moving ahead to strengthening the U.S.-Africa relations.   

Over the past six months, I have been engaged in an effort to reach out to African leaders across the continent and to meet with all of the African diplomats in Washington, D.C., to determine how their leadership and how their countries viewed the summit.  Without a doubt, the summit has been greatly appreciated by all of those who attended.  The leaders are overwhelmingly pleased by what has happened.  And we are pleased with the progress that has been made over the last six months in implementing the Biden administration’s efforts.  

In the last six months, we have seen great progress on the business and economic front.  Many of you will recall that during the summit, there was a day devoted to business, commercial, and investment issues.  That day resulted in some $15.7 billion in agreements being made between American companies and African countries and companies.  Since then, the number of deals has actually increased to $16.2 billion.  These deals have covered a wide range of areas, including infrastructure, health care, solar system implementation and establishment, as well as agricultural activities.  These represent a commitment by the American business community to work effectively and work progressively with African companies and countries. 

One of the other things that has been done since the implementation of the summit has been the establishment of a U.S. Diaspora Engagement Council.  This is one of the things that President Biden said that he wanted to do.  This council will be represented by 12 Americans comprised of individuals of first and second generation diaspora as well as heritage diaspora.  They will report to the President through the Secretary of State on recommendations to strengthen the level of cooperation and understanding between African Americans who are here in the United States and those who live on the continent.  The diaspora represents an enormous foreign policy asset for the United States.  No one knows Africa better and is more connected than those who have recently come from there, who have their heritage there.  We look at this as a very positive development. 

Let me stop there and be prepared to take questions. 

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Ambassador Carson.  Yes, and I was just going to go to Senior Director Devermont.   

MR DEVERMONT:  Great.  Thank you so much.  As Ambassador Carson said, we’ve been working very hard on implementing the deliverables and the pledges made at the summit.  As you will recall, President Biden said that he is all in on Africa, and I think the past six months have shown that.  We have had a record number, an unprecedented number of high-level visits to the continent.  President Biden talked about eight senior trips to the continent.  In the first six months, we have already had nine cabinet or senior-level official trips: Secretary Yellen, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the First Lady, Secretary Blinken, Secretary Austin, the Vice President, Secretary of Education Cardona, Administrator Power, and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Fudge.  Many of these leaders will take a second trip.  The First Lady has already returned to Africa on a trip to North Africa, and of course it will be culminated with a trip by President Biden. 

Just a little bit more about some of the other deliverables and our progress.  One of the biggest announcements was on the Digital Transformation with Africa.  This initiative is an $800 million initiative to invest in the continent’s digital future, whether it is enabling young people to have the digital literacy and access to get online to encouraging more investment in the African economies and digital sector.  We’ve established an African Digital Policy Council to navigate and to coordinate our efforts, and when Vice President Harris visited the continent she went to Lusaka and did a call to action with many entrepreneurs and philanthropists, essentially creating a private sector arm to the Digital Transformation with Africa.  And there’ll be more to say about that in the coming months. 

Finally, as Ambassador Carson said, we’ve already increased the number of investments that we’ve made on the continent from the summit from 15.7 billion to 16.2 billion, but that doesn’t even include some of the huge announcements we made recently at the G7 as part of our partnership for global infrastructure and investment.  We announced a $300 million investment in Ghana for data centers and are working on the due diligence for a $250 million railway corridor from Angola to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  And finally, in addition, the EXIM Bank, the import – the Export-Import Bank of the United States, has authorized $1.6 billion for infrastructure investments in Africa as part of this initiative.  

So in – across the priority areas we have made a substantial difference by showing up and working with our private sector and our government partners in the interagency to really deliver on the President’s pledge.  

MODERATOR:  All right.  Thank you very much, Senior Director.  And so I’d like to go now for the opening remarks of Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Molly Phee.   

ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHEE:  Thanks very much, and I’m so excited to be able to talk to you today.  The role of the media in Africa is so important in advancing transparency and accountability, and we were delighted that many members of the African press corps were able to participate in the summit in December.  Let me tell you that this is a spectacular time to be the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs given the attention and focus of the U.S. Government on seeing what we can do to amplify and expand and rejuvenate our relationship with Africa.  You’ve heard from Ambassador Carson and from Judd some of the different assistance programs, and one very positive outcome of the summit was the President’s direction to all of his different cabinet agencies – that is, American ministries – to make sure that they look to see how they could use their resources and expertise to support our partnership in Africa. 

We also really took some structural initiatives that I want to highlight.  The President affirmed American support for an African permanent seat in the Security Council.  The President affirmed American support for the African Union to be part of the G20.  He also talked about how he would direct Secretary Yellen, our Secretary of the Treasury, to look at the multilateral financial institutions and make sure they were revamped and fit for purpose for the current challenges we’re all facing.   

So we wanted to make good on our promise to elevate African voices in the global conversation.  Here in the Africa Bureau at the State Department, we’ve worked to identify staffing to have a cell that will focus on making sure we continue to direct the many different U.S. Government departments and agencies to continue to engage proactively to support African interests that are good for both Africans and for Americans.   

So let me stop there, Johann.  I just wanted to give a little bit of an update from the perspective of the bureau.   

MODERATOR:  All right, fantastic.  Thank you very much, Assistant Secretary.  So now I would like to go to the question-and-answer portion of today’s briefing.   

So for our first submitted question, we’d like to go to Ambassador Carson, and this question is from James Amoh Junior of the Ghana News Agency.  So James asks, “The regular high-level U.S.-Africa summit between the United States and African heads of states is significant in consolidating U.S.-Africa cooperation.  Are there immediate plans to alternate the venues of such meetings to be held in Africa to better strengthen the longstanding ties?” 

Ambassador Carson? 

AMBASSADOR CARSON:  James, thank you for that question.  At this point, our desire is to ensure that we hold summits on a more regular basis.  The last summit was held in 2014; it was eight years before the next summit in 2022.  Our desire is to see that the United States holds summits on a more regular basis, perhaps every three years, perhaps once during the administration of every president.  We haven’t gone to the point of thinking about alternating them between Washington and overseas.  It’s important for us to be able to establish a regular pattern here at home, which I think we’re trying very hard to do.   

MODERATOR:  All right, very good.  Thank you, Ambassador Carson.  For our second question I’d like to go to Senior Director Devermont, and the question comes from Milliscent Nnwoka of Channels TV in Nigeria.  So Milliscent asks, “Moving forward from six months, the continent is shifting in power, with elections in Nigeria, which are concluded, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Gabon, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, and the DRC.  Is the United States prepared for the new governments?  And will the strategy remain the same?” 

MR DEVERMONT:  Thanks for that question.  At the summit, it may have escaped people’s attention, but President Biden had a side meeting with six of the leaders who were facing elections in 2023 – with Gabon, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, DRC, and Madagascar.  And in that meeting, President Biden talked about both the U.S. challenges when it comes to democracy and elections and how we are striving to do better, but also solicited the views of his African counterparts ahead of their elections.  We made a substantial commitment: $165 million to invest in these elections in 2023, and at the conclusion of these elections, as we just did in Nigeria, the President sent a high-level delegation – in fact, the biggest delegation that he has sent in his administration to an election – to welcome President Tinubu and to engage with the Nigerian people as they work to strengthen their democracy. 

So throughout this year, we remain focused on not just elections but all of the parts of the process that strengthen democracies and show that this system delivers for people. 

MODERATOR:  Okay.  Thank you very much, Senior Director.  So for our third question we have a live question from Live question from Jill Humphries of Spotlight Africa.  Jill has asked her question in the Q&A.  Jill, if you have – do you have audio?  Would you like to ask your question orally, or should I read it?   

QUESTION:  I would like to ask the question, please.   

MODERATOR:  Very good.  Very good.  Please, proceed.   

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Yes, this question is Johnnie – Ambassador Johnnie Carson.  I would like to know how the U.S. Diaspora Engagement Council, the 12 members will be selected to ensure transparency and open participation.  And second, how will the Diaspora Engagement Council connect with local diaspora regularly to ensure transparency, democratic participation, and accountability in developing local initiatives?   

AMBASSADOR CARSON:  Jill, thank you very, very much for that question.  In preparing a list of possible appointments to the Diaspora Council, I and members of the State Department reached out to some two dozen or more organizations across the United States – organizations that represent the black community writ large, including the diaspora.  We also reached out to members of Congress and we reached out to mainline organizations like the Urban League and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.  We reached out to some NGOs as well.  They all submitted names, and we had some 95 different recommendations made to us, and we compiled those recommendations, looked through them, selected a category of individuals who we thought would best represent the broad diaspora that exists here in the United States, and we have submitted our recommendations to the White House.  Those are being vetted right now, and I hope that within the next two weeks we will see those names announced by the White House.   

But we engaged in a very, very exhaustive search and discussion with groups across the United States.  We wanted to ensure that there was diversity among the diaspora as well, reaching out to – looking at both younger first and second generation diaspora from across Africa – Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and all the countries that are represented.  I think we have made some solid recommendations, but the decision will be made by the White House.   

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Ambassador Carson.  So for our fourth question I would like to go to a submitted question from Vincent Owino of Nation Media Group in Kenya.  Vincent asks, “What is the improvement in trade with Africa after the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit?”  And if I could ask Assistant Secretary Phee to address that.  

ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHEE:  Thanks very much.  One of the goals of the summit was to accelerate our engagement to promote trade and investment between the United States and Africa, and I think Ambassador Carson and Judd have spoken about the large volume of deals that were made at the Africa Business Forum.  Again, we’re up to 16.2 billion in prospective deals.  And now we’re working intensively to ensure that those deals are implemented.   

In addition, as Judd mentioned, we are using the economic instruments of U.S. power, whether they be the Development Finance Corporation, our AGOA program, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, our new initiative under the G7 to promote investment and infrastructure.  So tools like these – the EXIM Bank – to make sure that we are fully working with our African partners and with American businesses to amplify trade and investment. 

I also wanted to mention that I spoke in my opening remarks about some of the architectural decisions we made.  And one of the agreements we reached during this summit was to provide technical support to the African Continental Free Trade Area, which is such an important and critical evolution in African policymaking, and we want to help support Africans do better at trading among themselves, either providing technical advice, financing, or the infrastructure that will help intensify trade among African states as well as between Africa and the United States.   

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much, Assistant Secretary Phee.  And now for our fifth question, I’d like to ask Senior Director Devermont for his thoughts on this question.  So this is one of many questions which was – which are fairly similar in scope, and this one is from Susan Njanji of Agence France-Presse in South Africa.  So the question is, “What do you make of reports that some U.S. lawmakers have asked Washington to move the AGOA conference due later this year from South Africa over Pretoria’s perceived support of Russia?  And what signal will that send?” 

MR DEVERMONT:  Thank you so much, Susan.  We share Congress’s concern about South Africa’s potential security partnership with Russia.  As you know, Russia is waging a brutal war against the people of Ukraine, and we’re constantly working to cut off support and funding for Putin’s war machine and to undercut Russia’s ability to carry out this conflict.  As part of these efforts, we are strongly encouraging countries not to support Russia’s war.  I’m not going to get into the specifics of private conversations with the South Africans, but be sure that we are having these conversations. 

With regards to AGOA, it is a cornerstone of our trade and investment relationship with Sub-Saharan Africa for the past two decades, and the AGOA Forum is truly an invaluable opportunity to promote trade with more than 30 African countries.  That benefits both Africans and American businesses and consumers.   

MODERATOR:  All right.  Thank you very much, Senior Director.  So we have a question from Kamel Mansari of the Jeune Independent in Algeria, and he is posing his question directly to Ambassador Carson.  So the question is, “Did you coordinate with the various local African organizations to implement the U.S.-Africa summit recommendations, and how would you assess the level of engagement from the African partners?” 

Ambassador Carson. 

AMBASSADOR CARSON:  Thank you very much, Mansari.  Thank you for that question, and it’s a very appropriate question.  Since taking over as the envoy working for implementation, I have met with all of the African ambassadors in Washington, D.C., and have met regularly with the AU ambassador who represents the African Union here in town.  I’ve also met with the dean of the diplomatic corps, who is also the dean of the African corps.  And on two trips to Africa, I have had an opportunity to meet with a number of presidents, foreign ministers, prime ministers, and senior government officials, as well as a number of the leaders of Africa’s pan-African organizations, the African Development Bank being amongst the most important.   

So there has been a regular effort to communicate with senior African leadership so that they are aware of our implementation efforts and that we can obtain feedback from them on how we should be moving forward with implementation.  Coordination with African leadership is a critical part of making this a success. 

MODERATOR:  Okay, thank you very much, Ambassador Carson.  I’d like to go to one of the live questions submitted just now on the Q&A.  I think it’s a very important topic.  So Mr. Ismaël Mihaja of the – of Madagascar is asking:  “What are the specific projects under the rubric of the summit for young people?”  And whoever would most like to answer that one.   

AMBASSADOR CARSON:  Well, one of the – I can start on that, and Judd and Molly can say – there is a great deal of focus on Africa’s youth in this summit document.  One of the most important is the administration’s commitment to expand one of the U.S. Government’s most important programs that reaches out to youth, and that is the YALI program, the Young African Leaders program started under the Obama administration.  This program has been significantly augmented with new financial resources and an expansion of the number of young African leaders who will be able to participate in this program.   

There are also programs in the health care field and in the agricultural field as well as focusing on women that will be useful as well.  One of the programs I think that is critical for young women is the African Women’s Entrepreneurial* Program in which the administration will be providing women with entrepreneurial skills as well as resources to help strengthen their businesses.  So there is a great deal out there for youth and for women, young women as well.   

MODERATOR:  All right, thank you.  

ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHEE:  I’d just like to add —  

MODERATOR:  Oh, pardon me. 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHEE:  I just wanted to add to that we also have a University Partnership Initiative, and one of the results of the summit was to increase our investment to promote collaboration between African and American universities and to create more opportunities both for students and for professors.  So that’s one example of the way in which the summit amplified good programs that were already underway.  And we will be shortly, Johann, putting online a fact description of all the different programs, and then journalists will be able to look at it and be able to search for specific topics.  Just as Ambassador Carson said, there’s a lot of focus by the administration generally, including in Africa, on how to support women and how to support youth.  And I think people will be excited to see all the different ways in which we’re pursuing those goals.   

MODERATOR:  All right.  Well, that’s a great topic, great question, great answers.  Thank you very much.  So I’d like to go to one of our live questions, and this is from Mbongeni Mguni from Botswana from the Mmegi newspaper.  So he poses this question to Ambassador Carson and Assistant Secretary Phee, and this is a very important upcoming event:  “The Corporate Council on Africa is due to hold a U.S.-Africa business summit in Gaborone.  At this point, are you able to share the level of U.S. Government representatives who could attend?”  

ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHEE:  Yes, I think we’re delighted to announce that the leader of the Development Finance Corporation, which is such an important arm of U.S. economic diplomacy, will lead the U.S. delegation to Botswana.  And we’re delighted that Botswana will be hosting this important event, and we’re excited to support the Corporate Council on Africa in the important work it does to promote trade and investment. 

And I might say that these kinds of commercial diplomacy activities are another way in which we support youth by creating economic job opportunities.  Thanks. 

MODERATOR:  All right, thank you very much.  So switching gears a little bit, we have a submitted question from Wael Badran of Alittihad newspaper in the Emirates, who asks:  “How is the U.S. engaging with African nations to ensure their voices and needs are heard and met in international climate negotiations, including the upcoming COP28?”  So Assistant Secretary Phee, do you have any thoughts on that? 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHEE:  Sure.  It’s been very important to President Biden to address African concerns particularly about adaptation, and he has a program which is called the President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience, which is to bolster African resilience to the impacts of climate change.  And there will – we announced that there will be 150 million in new programming to help move forward on that type of work in Africa.  And what does that mean?  It means things like access to early warning systems, adaptation finance, and climate risk assurance.  Also when the Vice President traveled to Africa, she looked at how to work with the private sector to improve additional investments and commitments to address these concerns.   

A third area which is a little bit outside the COP framework is related to food security, and I think most of our African journalists are aware that to help Africans respond to the devastating economic consequences of the Russian war in Ukraine, particularly the disruption in grains and fertilizer, we provided supplementary funding to our ongoing Feed the Future program.  But the Secretary also tried to work effectively, I believe, with his new envoy on food security to develop an innovative program called the Vision for African Crops and Soils.  And the idea of that program is to work in the different geographic regions of Africa to identify indigenous crops that are nutritional and figure out how to ensure that those crops can be grown successfully and adapt to the climate change impact so that we continue to work on supporting food production in Africa. 

So those are just some of the examples of the ways in which we’re trying to support African efforts to deal with the devastating consequences of climate change.  

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Assistant Secretary.  So I’d like to go to one of our journalists who has had her hand up very patiently.  So Evelyn Dan Eppelle from Nigeria, if you can ask your question.  Unmute yourself and ask your question.  Thank you.  

QUESTION:  Yeah, hi.  Thanks, everyone.  I had this question in the chat box.  My name is Evelyn Dan Eppelle from KAFTAN TV and I wanted to ask specifically about challenges.  I was in Washington, D.C., for the summit, and just listening to you and hearing about all of these initiatives and implementation is super-great, but I just want to ask:  What types of challenges have been identified in the past months in terms of the implementation of these ideas?  And what does even these challenges teach us about what wasn’t previously obvious?  Thank you.  

MR DEVERMONT:  Maybe I’ll try it first and then maybe Ambassador Carson has other thoughts too.  I think it’s a great question, Evelyn.  One of the reasons why we’re here with you today is that we are doing so much, so many new initiatives, as well as investing in expanding our programming that has been at the – really a centerpiece of our bilateral and multilateral and, I would add, bipartisan approach to Africa that we decided that we really needed to increase the communication.  So this is a month-long effort for us to share where we are going and where – what we have done, to hear from you directly to get feedback, and then look at how we can spend the next six months communicating, sharing, and growing our program and our relationships with the continent. 

So for me, one of the lessons learned is it’s wonderful to be able to really step up your game.  Part of that is not just implementation.  It’s talking about it.  It’s having a regular dialogue.  It’s making adjustments.  And so that, I think, for me has been one of the big lessons learned.  It’s something that I’m really excited that we are doing this today.  As Assistant Secretary Phee has said, we will be putting information up on the website so you can engage with it.  And we look forward to, on our travels and here in Washington, to continue to hear from journalists, our African diplomat partners, thought leaders, and other stakeholders about what is working and what they’d like to see more of. 

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much, Senior Director.  So I’d like to sort of focus on and center the mission of the summit and deepening ties between the United States and Africa, and I think a good question which was submitted in advance from Mr. Georges Stanislas Ouapure Zeze of Le Tambourin in Central African Republic, who asks:  “What can be done to make America’s commitment to Africa more visible and tangible?  Because on the face of it, Russia and China seem to hold the monopoly on impact and visibility in Africa at the moment.” 

So which of the panelists would like to address that question? 

AMBASSADOR CARSON:  Let me – if I would, I can start off and say a few things.  First of all, the United States probably needs to communicate better and more often with the citizens of Africa about exactly what we’re doing.  The United States has been Africa’s strongest partner in the most important areas of development over the last three or four decades, and a lot of the very great and outstanding work that we do across the continent is not seen as visibly as some other things. 

But let me just start with health care.  The United States program of PEPFAR has saved hundreds of thousands of lives in the face of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  The Malaria Initiative, the President’s Malaria Initiative, has also saved hundreds of thousands of lives, and the U.S. has been one of the fastest responders and most cooperative responders in addressing health care issues on the continent, helping most recently with COVID and working with African nations and the African Union to set up its own African CDC.   

All of these things are vitally important, but it’s not just in health care; it is also in other essential areas.  Africa is an energy and power-deficit country – continent.  Some 700 million people need reliable electricity.  The Power Africa Initiative that was launched a decade ago is helping to provide power across the continent to help alleviate the shortage of power.   

There’s great work being done in agriculture, in the food security initiatives and the Feed the Future initiatives.  Those are just three things that I mention.  There are many more that help every day to improve the lives of African citizens across the continent.  And some of those things are not as flashy as a road or a railroad, but they’re equally important, and probably more important in opening up opportunity and the ability of citizens and countries to move ahead economically into the future. 

The – I think Judd mentioned the latest initiative that we’ve undertaken, and that is the Digital Transformation with Africa Initiative.  This will provide greater accessibility to people to connect with the internet, will provide greater educational and economic opportunities, and will provide the opportunity for infrastructure development to help underpin this.   

These are all critical, critical initiatives, and they’re important every day in the lives of African citizens.  We have to do a better job of communicating what we’re doing.  We have to encourage the media to recognize the importance of the American initiatives, which are critical every day to millions and millions of Africans across the continent.  

MR DEVERMONT:  Just one more point, because I think our vision – it’s really important to talk about how we see Africa and the world.  And what we’re doing is not just what we do for Africa; it’s what we do with African peoples and governments.  It’s our view that the challenges that we face together across the world, in the international community, if they are going to be durably solved, we’re going to be doing that in partnership with African peoples and African nations.   

And so our vision and our engagement is not just in the continent, but, as Assistant Secretary Phee said, it’s in the UN; it’s with the African Union; it’s in the G20.  So we’re committed and we believe very strongly that Africans are an integral part of our international community.  They have a critical voice, contributions, and leadership role.  And it’s our working with African partners to make sure they have a seat at the table and they’re shaping the agenda – it’s fundamentally a big part of what the Biden-Harris administration is committed to do and is doing with Africans.  

ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHEE:  I think this is such an important point that I would also like to add a third aspect.  Ambassador Carson talked, I think importantly, about how we need to be communicating with African citizens, not just African governments.  And in our engagement with African citizens, we understand that they care a lot about things like anticorruption; they care a lot about the treatment of their environment.  They care a lot about the treatment of their critical minerals – are the manufacturing and mining done according to environmental and labor standards?   

So the values of the United States to promote the health and rights of individual citizens I think are values that we understand to be shared by most Africans.  Most Africans want to see democracy succeed.  They want to have the opportunity for prosperity and development that would come from an open, transparent system, based on meritocracy.  So these kinds of American values we understand are shared values with the African peoples.   

MR DEVERMONT:  Johann, I think you’re on mute.  Sir, I think you’re still muted. 

MODERATOR:  Unmute.  Okay, sorry about that.  Momentary hiccup.  My mute button got lost.  Right.  So our panelists have been very generous with their time today, and they’re all very busy.  And we are over our allotted time, but I think that we have maybe time to squeeze in just one more question.  And we’ll have to – have to keep it brief and be mindful of our panelists’ time.  But Peter Fabricius of Daily Maverick has had his hand up.  So Peter, if you’d like to ask your question live, please.  

QUESTION:  Yeah.  Hi, can you hear me?  

MODERATOR:  Yes. 

QUESTION:  Yeah, this is just a follow up to the question of Susan Njanji.  I wonder in relation to that letter which the congressmen sent to the Biden administration asking them to take AGOA off the list, the assumption in that letter seems to be that the – that the U.S. – Russian cargo ship Lady R did in fact upload arms for Russia in Simon’s Town last December.  And the U.S. presidential – the South African presidential spokesman has responded that that’s still a matter of inquiry.  Does that influence the Biden’s administration’s response, or could it?  Thank you.   

MODERATOR:  Senior Director, would you like to address that?  

MR DEVERMONT:  Sure, maybe I’ll start, and if Molly has additional points.  As I said, we’re not going to get into our private conversations with the South African Government, but we do welcome their commitment to investigate what happened with the Lady R.  That is what a responsible government does.  And we expect, depending on their findings, that they will hold those accountable if – if people have been found to violate the laws of South Africa.   

With respect to AGOA, we have a process every year where we revalidate AGOA membership.  And the law is very clear on what we’ll follow and that is – that won’t change for South Africa.  We’ll go through the appropriate steps as we do every year as we look AGOA eligibility. 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHEE:  I think just to add that we acknowledge and respect South Africa’s longstanding policy of nonalignment, and it’s our expectation that the South African Government will adhere to that policy when dealing with this terrible conflict in Europe. 

We know there are African initiatives underway to promote dialogue.  If you refer to Secretary Blinken’s recent speech in Helsinki, he talked about how the United States welcomes initiatives and efforts to resolve the conflict from other countries.  So I think we have an important dialogue with the Government of South Africa.  We have a multifaceted relationship, but there were legitimate concerns, I believe, raised – and as Judd said, we welcome the action and look forward to the results of the investigation the government has promised.   

MODERATOR:  All right.  Very good.  Thank you very much.  So we’ve definitely covered a lot of ground with these excellent questions and with the remarks of our speakers today.  I’d like to invite our speakers, if they have any final thoughts to share with the group.  Ambassador Carson, I see you right there on my screen, so if you have any final thoughts to share, can we start with you? 

AMBASSADOR CARSON:  Yes, thank you.  Africa’s importance is real.  The United States recognizes its global rise and the need to have it at the table for important decisions when they’re being debated and made.  So partnership is important in implementing better global cooperation.  Africa is one of those important partners that we need to continually listen to and work with.   

MODERATOR:  Fantastic.  Thank you, Ambassador.  Senior Director, do you have any final thoughts for the group?  

MR DEVERMONT:  I would just say thank you so much for this opportunity to share some of the exciting news six months after the summit in terms of how we are delivering both on the President’s pledge and commitments, but showing our African partners our continued investments and engagement and desire for dialogue so that we can advance shared interests.  And we look forward to continuing this conversation over the next couple of months.   

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much.  And can you bring us home, Assistant Secretary Phee? 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHEE:  Sure.  Again, I also am delighted to have had this opportunity.  We look forward to more.  I would just say there is no doubt that Africa is a strategic partner to the United States, and the goal of the implementation of the Africa Leaders Summit is to institutionalize the relationship in a way that is commensurate with Africa’s strategic importance.  We’re fortunate to have Africa as a partner, and we look forward to continuing to engage with the continent. 

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much, Assistant Secretary Phee.  So that does conclude today’s briefing.  I want to thank U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs Assistant Secretary Molly Phee, National Security Council Senior Director for African Affairs Judd Devermont, and Special Presidential Representative for U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Implementation Ambassador Johnnie Carson for joining us.  Thank you for being so generous with your time today.  Thank you to all the journalists who participated today.   

So just as a reminder, those of you who join us frequently will know this already, but a recording and a transcript of today’s briefing will be distributed to participating journalists as soon as we can produce them here at the Hub.  If you have any questions about today’s briefing, you may contact the Africa Regional Media Hub – that’s us here in Johannesburg – at AFMediaHub@state.gov.  AFMediaHub@state.gov.  I would also like to invite everyone to follow us on Twitter at our handle, @AfricaMediaHub, and our hashtag, #AFHubPress.  Thank you very much to everyone. 

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U.S. Department of State

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