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US-Africa Leaders Summit: Six Months' Progress

File -U.S President Joe Biden and leaders pose for a family photo during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, in Washington, D.C., U.S. December 15, 2022.

WASHINGTON — Top U.S. officials on Tuesday provided comprehensive updates on the progress made in implementing the initiatives and goals set during the December U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, as Washington seeks to strengthen ties with the continent.

Among the priorities established during the summit was boosting investment deals with African nations, which resulted in $15.7 billion in agreements between U.S. and African companies. Since then, the officials noted, investments have increased to $16.2 billion.

"These deals have covered a wide range of areas including infrastructure, healthcare, solar systems, as well as agricultural activities," Johnnie Carson, special presidential representative for the summit, said during the briefing hosted by the U.S. State Department's Johannesburg-based Africa Regional Media Hub.

Officials also provided updates on the Digital Transformation with Africa initiative, which came in line with the African Union's Digital Transformation Strategy and the U.S.' strategy toward sub-Saharan Africa, to boost digital collaboration.

The $800 million DTA initiative, part of a broader initiative under the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, or PGII, was championed by Vice President Kamala Harris during her visit to Lukasa, Zambia in April. Harris called on the private sector in the southern African nation to contribute to these initiatives.

Judd Devermont, U.S. National Security Council senior director for African Affairs, said the initiatives would create "a private sector arm to the digital transformation with Africa."

Devermont added that at the G7 summit last month, the U.S. pledged a $300 million investment in Ghana for the development of data centers and highlighted ongoing efforts to secure $250 million for a railway corridor from Angola to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Empowering Africa and advancing democratic values

U.S. President Joe Biden told African leaders at the summit that the U.S. is "all in" on Africa. Biden has sent an unprecedented nine administration officials to the region since December including Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin and Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Samantha Power, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, have also made trips to the continent.

First lady Jill Biden made her most recent and second Africa tour this month, visiting the North African nations Morocco and Egypt.

Molly Phee, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, highlighted the Biden administration's support for key African aspirations, including a permanent African seat at the U.N. Security Council, and a seat at the G-20 table for the African Union.

The U.S. made a commitment of $165 million to invest in elections in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, DRC and Madagascar, Devermont said, adding that the U.S. is "focused on not just elections but all of the parts of the process that strengthen democracies and show that this system delivers for people."

Empowering youth and diaspora

In preparation for appointments to the 12-member advisory council on engaging the African diaspora, Carson said the State Department conducted a comprehensive outreach to over two dozen organizations representing the Black community and the African diaspora in the U.S.

According to Carson, there will be emphasis on ensuring representation from younger generations of Africans, including youth from countries such as Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya.

"We had some 95 different recommendations made to us," Carson said, adding that the names of appointees would be announced within the next two weeks.

Officials expressed their hope to hold summits with African nations regularly. The last such summit was held in 2014 prior to December's meeting.

"Africa's importance is real. The United States recognizes its global rise and the need to have it at the table for important decisions," Carson said.

VOA's Hassuna Baishu compiled this report.