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'Africa and America Intimately Connected': Yellen

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stands at the 'Door of No Return' as she visits the House of Slaves (Maison des Esclaves) at Goree Island off the coast of Dakar, Senegal January 21, 2023.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen visited Goree Island in Senegal Saturday, and spoke of the “unspeakable cruelty” of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

"Ultimately, Goree Island reminds us that the histories of Africa and America are intimately connected," Yellen said after touring the island. "We know that the tragedy did not stop with the generation of humans taken from here."

Yellen visited the House of Slaves, a fort built in the late 18th century on Goree Island off the coast of Senegal as a transit point for human beings before they were forcibly transported across the Atlantic, as she continued a three-country visit to Africa.

"I take from this place the importance of redoubling our commitment to fight for our shared principles and the values of freedom and human rights where ever they are threatened - in Africa, in the United States and around the world," she wrote in the visitor's log.

Goree's mayor Augustin Senghor presented Yellen with a certificate appointing her as a lifetime ambassador of the island's history.

Later Saturday, Yellen met with Senegalese finance minister Mamadou Ba.

At the opening of the talks with Ba she said she planned to discuss infrastructure projects, pandemic preparedness, democracy strengthening and anti-corruption partnerships.

“Senegal, like many other countries, has experienced rising domestic inflation amid increased prices for food, fuel, and fertilizer. At the same time, as advanced and emerging economies have slowed down in response to the most recent global shock of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the external environment for developing economies like Senegal has become more challenging. Minister Ba and I will build on our conversation from last fall to discuss how to build a more resilient global economy in the face of overlapping shocks”

Yellen also acknowledged Africa’s susceptibility to the climate crisis, noting that 17 of the world’s top 20 climate-vulnerable countries are African.

Secretary Yellen also helped kick off a new rural electrification project in Senegal that will bring reliable power to 350,000 people, while supporting some 500 jobs in 14 U.S. states.

Yellen traveled to the site of the project, led by Illinois-based engineering firm Weldy Lamont.

Friday, she announced U.S. plans to expand partnerships with Africa on conservation, climate adaptation and access to clean energy, and noted U.S. President Joe Biden’s intentions to provide over $1 billion to support African-led climate resilience efforts.

Yellen acknowledged America’s contribution to the construction of West Africa’s largest wind farm, located just outside Dakar.

Yellen began her 10-day trip to Africa Friday with a visit to a U.S.-funded business incubator for youth and women in Dakar, Senegal. As the first female U.S. treasury secretary, Yellen got a warm round of applause from the businesswomen at the meeting.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen smiles after delivering a speech to the General Delegation for Rapid Entrepreneurship of Women and Youth in Dakar, Senegal, Friday Jan. 20, 2023.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen smiles after delivering a speech to the General Delegation for Rapid Entrepreneurship of Women and Youth in Dakar, Senegal, Friday Jan. 20, 2023.

Yellen’s trip comes on the heels of last month’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, where Biden committed $55 billion in economic, health and security aid to the continent over the next three years.

Several members of the Biden administration, such as Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Special Climate Envoy John Kerry, have already traveled to Africa.

Biden, first lady Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris also have plans to visit.

After Senegal, Yellen will continue her trip with stops in Zambia and South Africa.

This report was compiled with information from Reuters and VOA's Annika Hammerschlag.