At the second US-Africa leadership summit in Washington DC this week, President Joe Biden promised a wave of investment in the continent topping $50 billion over the next three years. Among them was a $75 million pledge to support political governance in an attempt to counter what he described as “democratic backsliding.”
The effort is timely: Since 2017, 13 of the 14 coups recorded globally have been in Africa, according to the BBC. Biden said the US will work with African governments, regional institutions and civil society to “strengthen transparent, accountable governance facilities, facilitating voter registration [and] constitutional reform.”
Mo Ibrahim, founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and creator of the Ibrahim Prize for African Leadership, welcomed the initiative but suggested its impact could be limited by the amount of funding committed. “There has been a lot of tightening of the space for civil society in Africa, so it’s important that they’re acknowledging the importance of governance, but $75 million is not enough,” he said in an interview with FMN. “There are 54 countries and the US has $50 billion to give—there must be scope for more than that for governance.”
Biden’s pledge to invest at least $55 billion in Africa over the next three years also came under scrutiny as much of the funding will come from previously announced programs, Reuters reports. Nearly $20 billion will go to supporting health programs in the region, including over $11.5 billion to combat HIV/AIDS. Adult HIV prevalence remains stubbornly high at 9% in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Population Reference Bureau.
Biden touted $15 billion in trade and investment deals at the summit, including packages for the African Import-Export Bank, Africa Finance Corp., and the Africa50 Infrastructure Investment Program. The administration has also committed to over $1 billion to help Africa adapt to climate change and hundreds of millions in new investment for women’s initiatives. Biden also said he’d asked the US Congress for the authority to lend $21 billion to the IMF to “provide access to necessary financing for low and middle income countries that’s so difficult to come by now.”
Macky Sall, President of Senegal and Chair of the African Union, took a strident tone in his response to Biden’s commitments, laying out six priorities on behalf of the African people. Sall demanded more commitment from the US on peace, security and the fight against terrorism, and on debt relief to help nations build economic and social resilience in the face of “the triple global shocks of climate change, a health crisis and a major war.”
He also called for sustained investment in infrastructure, financial support for the transition to clean energy, and “massive investments” in improving Africa’s food production capacity. Sall acknowledged that the US had already addressed his sixth priority—advocating for Africa’s inclusion in the UN Security Council—but pressed for the scrapping of sanctions against Zimbabwe.
At the leaders’ summit, Biden committed to helping the African Union gain a permanent seat on the G20.
Biden also promised to do “whatever we can” to help the Democratic Republic of Congo in the wake of intense flooding that killed at least 120 people this week.