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MODERATOR: Good afternoon to everyone from the U.S. Department of State’s Africa Regional Media Hub. I would like to 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 National Security Council Senior Advisor for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Dana Banks and Bureau of African Affairs Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Robert Scott.
Senior Advisor Banks and Deputy Assistant Secretary Scott will discuss the upcoming U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit’s agenda to strengthen U.S.-Africa relations and highlight the U.S. commitment to the African continent. They are speaking to us from Washington, D.C.
We will begin today’s call with opening remarks from Senior Advisor Banks and Deputy Assistant Secretary Scott. Then we will turn to your questions. We will try to get to as many of them as we can.
As a reminder, today’s call is on the record, and with that, I will turn it over to National Security Council Senior Advisor for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Dana Banks.
MS BANKS: Hi. Good afternoon to colleagues on the continent. Thank you, Tiffany. So happy to be with you today to talk about our plans for the upcoming U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit that President Biden is hosting.
President Biden has invited 49 African heads of state and the head of the AU to Washington for a three-day summit to really highlight how the U.S. and African nations are strengthening our partnerships to advance our shared priorities. The summit reflects the U.S. strategy towards Sub-Saharan Africa, which really emphasizes the critical importance of the region in meeting this era’s defining challenges.
We expect some of the outcomes to be a deepened and expanded reflection of our long-term U.S.-Africa partnership while we advance our shared priorities. We aim to amplify African voices to collaboratively meet this era’s defining challenges, and really, while we leverage the best of America, including our government, our private sector, our civil society, our diaspora, to uplift and empower African institutions, citizens, and nations.
The summit is really rooted in the recognition that Africa is a key geopolitical player, one that is shaping our present and will shape our future. As Secretary Blinken underscored when he traveled to the region earlier this year, Africa will shape not just the future of African people but of the world. President Biden believes that U.S. collaboration with African leaders as well as civil society, business, diaspora, women and youth leaders, is essential to tackling these shared challenges while seizing opportunities, including increasing sustainable food production; strengthening health systems and combating the COVID-19 pandemic while we prepare for future pandemics; responding to the escalating climate crisis; building a strong and inclusive global economy while providing life-saving humanitarian assistance; and strengthening global democratic norms, institutions, and the rule of law.
With one of the world’s fastest-growing populations, largest free trade area, most diverse ecosystems, and one of the largest regional voting groups in the United Nations, African contributions, partnerships, and leadership are essential to meeting this era’s defining challenges. The continent’s dynamic economies and populations really do provide the foundation for a bright future for the continent and the United States.
Lastly, I just would like to emphasize that we will focus on what we will do not only with African nations and peoples but what we – not only what we do for African nations and peoples but what we do with African nations and peoples. And a robust partnership between the United States and African nations is really vital to achieving our shared priorities, as I mentioned, whether it’s recovering from the pandemic and strengthening health systems, creating broad-based economic opportunity, addressing the climate crisis. expanding energy access, revitalizing democracies, or strengthening the free and open international order.
So with that, I will turn it over to DAS Scott for his opening remarks.
MR SCOTT: Great. Thank you, Dana. Yeah, hello to everybody. Let me take a look at – or take you through the three-day agenda quickly. As Dana mentioned the top line goals of the summit, we’re going to have three days of events which will support all of those goals and all of those pillars.
The first day is our widest aperture day. We’re having a series of forums – an African and Diaspora Young Leaders forum; a civil society forum; a peace, security, and governance forum. There will be discussions on climate as well as on health.
The second day is dedicated to the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, and a full day of opportunities for African and U.S. businesses to come together and to meet with delegations from the continent.
And the third day is the leaders day, obviously, with President Biden and heads of delegation, heads of state from the continent involved.
Let me just focus a little bit on the first day. I think what we’re seeing here is an opportunity to have as many players as possible involved in the discussion. One of the events which I think is extremely interesting and important, and one that has generated some interest I’ve seen from your questions online, is the African and Diaspora Young Leaders Forum. And let me go through that quickly.
As you know, the African Union has identified the African diaspora as the sixth region of the African Union. And we also see the diaspora as a huge resource and opportunity for engagement here. So this event on the first day will bring together youth leaders, civil society, political actors, creatives, and folks involved in climate and other areas. I think what we’re seeing is a lot of interest in the event. Let me just point out that one of the areas – there’ll be a breakout session on education, a breakout session on creatives, and a breakout session on climate and energy.
The one that I’d just focus on quickly is on creatives. As you know, the creative industry is becoming a more and more important part of GDP on the continent and here in the United States. And bringing actors from the continent together with their counterparts here in the U.S. is a wonderful opportunity to synergize and to get these groups working together and collaborating on music, on fashion, on culture. And that’s a huge outcome that we see from that event.
The second one, real quickly, is the civil society forum. Again, we’re fully aware of the fact that the – we call it the megaphone of governance – isn’t just that held by governments, but rather by civil society actors, NGOs. A lot of voices are involved in that. And this event will allow policymakers to come together with members from labor, from civil society, in order to talk about how do you strengthen institutions and reduce corruption, an important support also for the AU’s Agenda 2063.
Finally, let me wrap by just mentioning the peace, security, and governance forum. The idea here is again to look at the linkages between democratic institutions and governance and how they impact long-term peace and prosperity. We will see our secretaries of State and Defense and administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development coming together with a set of African leaders to talk about these inter-linkages.
So that’s part of what we’re looking at on day one. I just wanted to run through that for people. Let me go ahead and turn it back over to Tiffany.
MODERATOR: Thank you, DAS Scott and Senior Advisor Banks. We will now begin the question and answer portion of today’s briefing. We ask that you limit yourself to one question related to the topic of today’s briefing: the upcoming U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. Please note that the briefing is very full, so please be considerate to other journalists and make your questions as brief as possible in the interest of time.
Our first question is going to be one that was received in advance. This is from Mr. Mohammed Tawakel from Ethiopia. He works for Al Jazeera Media Network. His question is: “What is the United States vision for the African-U.S. relationship?”
MS BANKS: Thank you, Tiffany. I think I’ll start off. So, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, the goal of the summit is rooted in a recognition that the continent is a global player and also will help shape the future, not just for the continent but for the world. So we intend to – and as we’ve been saying since the beginning of the administration, from President Biden’s first message to the African Union summit in early 2021, is we intend to engage in a mutually respectful manner and one that really highlights and strengthens our shared priorities.
Whether it’s on key global challenges or the regional priorities, really, the breadth and depth of American partnerships with African governments, business, civil society, and citizens, really is based upon our partnerships that are based upon dialogue, respect, and these shared values that harness the ingenuity and creativity and dedication of all of our peoples. So that is how – that is the vision for the U.S.-Africa partnership. We intend to – the summit to be really the concrete demonstration of that, a very dynamic one over the three days that are planned for the summit, and one where we intend to continue to engage in a sustained and intentional way.
DAS Scott, if you have anything to add?
MR SCOTT: Yeah, Dana. Just real quickly, absolutely. I think we’re – it’s African contributions and partnerships and leadership, as you pointed out, are essential today. You’re looking at a continent – fastest-growing population, largest free trade area, largest voting bloc in the United Nations. So issues that affect the globe are in large part going to be solved through the involvement of African governments and populations. So agree with you fully.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will go live to Hariana Veras from Televisão Publica of Angola. Operator, can you open the line, please?
QUESTION: Thank you very much for the opportunity. My first question will be to please ask for help because my team and I were in Africa trying to interview a few leaders, African leaders that will come to Washington, and we had the opportunity to speak with President João Lourenço on a one-hour interview and also President Obiang from Equatorial Guinea. And when we came to D.C., we couldn’t register to cover the summit. So we are trying to do our best to be also involved to cover this summit. So my question – and I would like to ask help of the organization to please include our team to cover the summit.
So my question is: When I spoke with President Lourenço and also President Obiang from Equatorial Guinea, I noticed that those two presidents, and also the office of President Tshisekedi from Congo, is that the presidents are very hopeful that this summit really bring positive results and something different happen in the relation between United States and the way the U.S. look to African continent. So what can you tell us that this summit will really be different and will bring about a positive and very strong result? What you can tell us that this summit will bring about this result?
MS BANKS: Thank you for the question. Regarding your first comment, I will defer to our media hub colleagues to facilitate with access to the media accreditation information. So I’ll just leave that there. If there are any additional questions, please direct them to our office and we can try to facilitate.
In terms of concrete, positive outcomes, deliverables as they’re sometimes called, I know that we have been working very hard even not just since the date was publicly announced by Vice President Harris in July, but many months before that, doing various rounds of consultations and engagement with various stakeholders from governments, from the African – to the African diplomatic corps, to civil society, to the private sector, members of the diaspora community, and really all the stakeholders whose voices will be present in the agenda that has been laid out over the past – for the past three days – I’m sorry, for the three days of the summit.
But we definitely are – we heard those voices. We heard that input and took it on board as we planned, one, not only what type of announcements we will have at the summit, but also how we intend to do the follow-up for the summit. So I think you can expect some announcements around sustained engagement in terms of follow-up in addition to some of the key priority areas that DAS Scott and I have laid out at the beginning of the call around the diaspora, around elevating trade and investment relationships, around support for greater peace and security and in the environment and climate change arenas as well as democracy and governance.
So we realize that there is a great excitement around the summit given that this is only the second summit that is being held – Africa Leaders Summit – and so we really want to make sure that we are meeting the mark on that.
And DAS Scott, I’ll invite you to join in if you have anything additional.
MR SCOTT: Just real quickly. Yeah, no, thank you, Dana, and thank you, Hariana. I think also just to point out that there will be literally thousands of encounters. So obviously there’s a lot of focus on heads of state, heads of delegation meeting, and that’s rightly so. But over the three days, you’re going to have the entire delegations – so there are 20-plus people from many countries coming, ministers and there’ll be business leaders, civil society, folks from the creative industry – and they will be meeting for three solid days. Many of them are coming early and maybe staying late as well.
So I think one of the big outcomes is going to be this incredible energy that comes from thousands of individual meetings, whether it be a business meeting with a minister of trade or an investor or two people who are both involved in fashion or moviemaking or music coming together. And I think that that will be the gift that keeps on giving from the summit that’s going to run across so many different aspects of our – of the continent and the United States coming together and working together into the future. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will go live to Pearl Matibe, writing for defenceWeb in South Africa. Pearl, may you ask your question.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you so much for taking my question and for doing this. I really appreciate your time and availability. My question is directed both to Dana Banks and to Mr. Scott, and this is regarding peace and security.
Please, can you tell me a little bit more clearly what are your objectives and outcomes you’re hoping to specifically gain regarding security on the continent? As you realize, even if you’re trying to do trade and investment and all of these other things that you mentioned, without stability on the continent and governance, this will be – continue to be a challenge. So can you be a little bit more clearer about what you intend? And what differences in security – what would be different to the 2014 summit?
And I don’t really hear from both of you clearly how will you plan to be inclusive of journalists in this? Because I’m sure you appreciate journalists are the fourth arm of government, and if you’re able to increase the narrative and the mass communication. How are you going to create, then, journalists to be inclusive in this conference? Thank you.
MS BANKS: Sure. Thank you, Pearl. So I’ll take your first question on peace and security. So as DAS Scott previewed, there will be a peace, security, and governance forum on the first day of the summit. And really, that forum is focusing on peace and security and the nexus with good governance. Key issues that will likely be addressed will include strengthening democratic institutions and values, civilian-led military institutions, accountability and respect for human rights, and the role of women and society in peacebuilding, in addition to advancing development progress as part of effective strategies to establish conditions for future stability and security.
So we will have our Cabinet officials responsible for the three Ds, as we call it – for diplomacy, defense, and development – headlining at this forum and with key African heads of state who will highlight the importance of this issue across sectors and ministries really to effectively address the complex web of security challenges on the continent. And we will look to our African counterparts participating in the session to share some of their innovative solutions in advancing peace, security, and governance.
On the – on your question about what’s different from 2014, well, I think as DAS Scott highlighted at the top and as is in line with our – the strategy for – U.S. strategy towards Sub-Saharan Africa, is the diaspora element that is really one of the main differences in terms of this summit and 2014. But I think, moreover, really we’re not looking to compare and contrast, but rather to, again, complement our relationship with the continent. The world that we’re in now is very different than the world in 2014, and so we’re looking to really strengthen and elevate our relationship with the continent to meet the challenges currently.
And I failed to really highlight the role of health in my previous answer, but we have a long history – the U.S. does – of sustained engagement in the health sector with the continent. We’re coming up on the 20th anniversary of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, for PEPFAR, and that – some of those systems and foundations that were put in place for – to address the HIV/AIDS crisis we were then able to build upon and following with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and ongoing, additional subsequent outbreaks on the continent, and in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and working with the Africa CDC.
So as the world has changed, as the continent has changed, so too will and has our relationship with the continent necessitated a strengthened and elevated role.
DAS Scott, anything to add?
MR SCOTT: No. Thanks, Dana. Agreed. Let me just touch on the role of journalists. Absolutely agree with you, Pearl. Just to let you know that we are sponsoring 25 journalists to come to the event from the continent. And so we want to make sure that there’s free and open communication supporting press freedoms, so there will be 25 that we’re supporting, and then obviously there are those who are self-sponsored as well. So absolutely agree: very important that journalists are involved, are able to evaluate, report on the summit. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you. I’m going to take a question that was typed in live. It comes from Amadu Lamrana Bah from the Africa Young Voices Media in Sierra Leone. They ask, “What’s the private sector involvement, especially from Africa, in these meetings? And how do the organizers ensure that delegations from Africa are inclusive of some of the – inclusive of some representatives of the private sector?”
MS BANKS: Right, coming off mute. Yes. So the second day of the summit, the 14th, is dedicated to the U.S.-Africa Business Forum. And we extended invitations to both U.S. and African CEOs along – who will be there along with all of the heads of state, key members of the Cabinet and our agencies who are responsible for trade and for financing, to really talk about how we not only increase our two-way trade and investment partnerships to bolster Africa’s role in the economy, but looking at scaling innovation and entrepreneurship and promoting advances in key sectors, including health care, agriculture, climate and energy, infrastructure, and digital technology.
So this forum is really about making connections. As we know in business that networking and making connections is key for advancing deals, as we call them, to achieve the goals of not only the country but of the people, right, of the workforce in those countries.
So, really, the forum presents an opportunity for the public and private sectors to strategize on how to unleash the full potential of that economic growth on the continent. There is such a great demand for participation in this forum, realizing we only have limited space and time. But we did work to ensure that there were – that there was a good representative sample of key private sector businesses from the continent as well as key U.S. companies and CEOs who will participate in that discussion.
Anything else to add, DAS Scott?
MR SCOTT: No, just a couple of small details. So we’re – this is important. The diplomatic community here, African diplomatic community, early on in this process wrote to Dana highlighting their focus on ensuring that this business relationship – relationships would be focus – a big focus for the summit. We’ve taken that on board, as Dana indicated. We’re working with the Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Corporate Council on Africa very closely to ensure that the – and I think the target is more than 100 African companies and more than 100 U.S. companies – have all the opportunities in that second day to meet with delegations.
So that’s a big focus of ours right now is to ensure that we’re able to match-make and that there are as many opportunities as possible for businesses to meet with governments and meet with other businesses. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will go to – live, excuse me – to Simon Ateba, Today News Africa in Washington. Can you open the line, please?
QUESTION: Yes. Thank you, Dana and Robert, for doing this, and thank you, Tiffany, for taking my question. This is Simon Ateba with Today News Africa in Washington. I was wondering if you could give us some highlight of the summit. As far as President Biden himself is concerned, will he hold any bilateral meeting with any of – any African leaders? And how many African leaders have actually confirmed attendance?
And finally, of the four countries President Biden did not invite – Mali, Burkina Faso, Sudan, and Guinea – how do you intend to engage their citizens? Did you invite any of the civil society from those countries to the summit? Thank you.
MS BANKS: Thank you, Simon, for the question. So we do have plans for – and the President intends to ensure that he spends real quality time with his invited guests over the three days of the summit, as well as vice presidential participation and participation from across our Cabinet agencies. We will have more specifics in terms of the President’s time as we get closer. I know this is close right now, but you know that the President’s calendar is always a work in progress. So we just want to be fully confirmed before moving out specifically on the dates – on the dates or timing of his participation. But absolutely, he will spend both substantive policy discussions, particularly on day three, which is the leader days – or sessions, which is the day for leader sessions, and both he and the Vice President, as well as on day two during the business forum as well as some other social engagements that are planned on that day.
And I think your other question was about the invited countries, and whether or not their citizens may be incorporated. Yes, even though in our rubric for the – for extending invitations we followed our African Union sort of colleagues as a guide in terms of inviting those countries who are in good standing with the African Union – and those four countries that you mentioned who are currently suspended unfortunately were not extended invitations, but we do have plans to incorporate members of their civil societies and their communities in the dialogue and in the conversation in the civil society forum and perhaps in some other engagements that are planned. There will be a virtual element to the civil society forum as well as the diaspora forum to really, in real time, be able to bring in voices from the continent.
And oh, I think your other question was on the RSVPs, and so far we have 45 out of the 50 invited heads of state and the AU commissioner confirmed and – but that obviously is still open and we are anticipating that we’ll get additional RSVPs in the matter of days. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you. We have time for one more question. We’ll go live to Amarachi Ubani from Channels TV in Lagos. Can you open the line, please?
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you so much for this press conference. My question actually follows Simon’s question about the leaders who will not be attending this summit. But I’m more interested in what the American Government has done about the coups in these countries and whether the issue of elections will be topmost in the discussions with the leaders. For example, Nigeria is holding its presidential election next year, and I’m sure that the U.S. Government has been monitoring the situation on the ground. Will that be a topic of interest for the United States, not just for the Nigerian elections but for democracy generally in Africa with respect to these countries that already have experienced coups in the last two years? Thank you.
MS BANKS: Thank you for that question. Yes, I think as we both highlighted early on, the focus and the emphasis on supporting democracy and not only in the peace and security and governance forum and talking about how good governance, strong democracies who deliver for their people, are likely to be more stable and more secure countries, and peaceful, but really, again, throughout the summit.
As you know, President Biden has underscored that respect for democracy and human rights are really at the core of our foreign policy and will be through – for this administration, and we’re doing so in line with the African Union and its aspirations as laid out in Agenda 2063, which one of the seven aspirations talks about an Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice, and the rule of law. The first session on the leaders day is focused on Agenda 2063, so really, the President will hear from the convened heads of state about what not only that document and these aspirations really means for their countries and how they’re implementing them, but also how we, again, are partnering and can partner to strengthen that and that vision for the continent. And surely democracy, good governance, and respect for human rights, justice, and the rule of law is a key foundation in that engagement and how we partner going forward.
Rob, if you have anything to add on that.
MR SCOTT: Dana, I just think we’re also anticipating a robust series of bilateral meetings below the heads of state or with our Cabinet-level officials with heads of state, and I would anticipate and know that we will be talking about the democracy issues that Dana just outlined as well as what’s going on in the countries in which there are coups. That’s an important aspect of stability, obviously, on the continent, and it is something that will be brought up in many sidebar meetings as well as the formal and official meetings that are part of the summit agenda. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Great, thank you very much. That’s all the time we’ve had. Senior Advisor Banks, DAS Scott, did you have any final words?
MS BANKS: Thank you, Tiffany. I’ve enjoyed this conversation today. I know, as I mentioned, there’s a lot of excitement around the summit and we are getting much closer to that. So the chance to be able to really engage and to talk about what we’ve laid out and to hear the questions from journalists around the continent is always a good way to do a pulse check, as we say. And so I’ve appreciated this pulse check this morning. I’m confident that the agenda that has been laid out will really speak to how we are engaging in a mutually beneficial and respectful way with the continent and how we are elevating our partnership, a 21st-century partnership, as we say, that realizes the challenges and recognizes the challenges that we share globally while we work to address those and, clearly, the challenges on the continent as well, but also harnessing those opportunities.
And in that respect, I want to just mention an additional element to the forum – I’m sorry, to the summit that we didn’t really sort of highlight earlier. But there will be a space forum, a U.S.-Africa civil and commercial space forum. And again, these are discussions that we have with partners globally on how we – how we partner to – in this arena to really respond not only to the climate crisis, but also promoting responsible behavior in space and strengthening cooperation in the areas of commerce and science.
So this is also to the question. This is a different element that was not there in 2014, but again, we are in a different dynamic, in a different space now in 2022, and this – the U.S.-Africa civil and commercial space forum part of the summit, again, is another reflection of that about how we are partnering with our African partners to – on every element of critical engagement globally.
So, again, thank you all for logging on today, and I hope we have given you a good overview of the summit. And I’ll turn it over to DAS Scott.
MR SCOTT: Well, thanks, Dana. Well said. I think we’re just – to make it a little personal, we’re – everybody here from Dana on down to – or at the State Department, we’re very excited that we’re having guests coming. Ultimately, this is an opportunity for people to meet each other irrespective of the roles that they play, and that’s just hugely exciting for all of us who are involved and have been involved in the planning of this. So we’re very much looking forward to all the things that Dana spoke about. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. And that concludes today’s call. I want to thank National Security Council Senior Advisor Dana Banks and Bureau of African Affairs Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Robert Scott for joining us, and thank all of our callers for participating. If you have any questions about today’s call, you may contact the Africa Regional Media Hub at AFMediaHub@state.gov. Thank you.