Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
Nigeria will be missing on her itinerary as the United States Vice President Kamala Harris, is expected to travel to Africa later this month, her office announced, becoming the most senior Joe Biden administration official to visit the continent.
Her trip comes as the administration seeks to bolster its relationships with African countries, as competitors like Russia and China have made inroads in the region, CNN reported.
Harris is scheduled to visit Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia in a historic trip, her first visit to the continent since becoming vice president, but will ignore Africa’s most populated nation and one of America’s most important allies on the continent, THISDAY learnt.
And it will be the first time a Black US vice president is visiting the region, amplifying Harris’ historic role and high-profile trip. Second gentleman Doug Emhoff will join her on the trip.
In a statement, Harris’ press secretary Kirsten Allen said the vice president’s trip will “strengthen the United States’ partnerships throughout Africa and advance our shared effort on security and economic prosperity.”
Harris’ trip is the latest of several US officials who plan on visiting, or have visited, Africa. First lady Jill Biden returned from her trip to Africa earlier this month. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield visited earlier this year
Also, Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Ethiopia and Niger this week, and President Joe Biden is expected to visit the continent later this year. For now , they have all side-stepped Nigeria.
“Throughout the trip, in partnership with African governments and the private sector, the vice president will advance efforts to expand access to the digital economy, support climate adaptation and resilience, and strengthen business ties and investment, including through innovation, entrepreneurship, and the economic empowerment of women,” Allen wrote.
Harris will first visit Ghana, then Tanzania and then end the weeklong trip in Zambia before returning to Washington. The vice president will hold bilateral meetings with presidents from the three countries to discuss “regional and global priorities, including our shared commitment to democracy, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, food security, and the effects of Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine, among other issues.”
According to the CNN report, she also plans to build on the commitments made during the US-Africa Leaders Summit in December, when the president hosted nearly 50 African leaders in Washington. In her remarks at the time, Harris framed the US as the preferable choice over Beijing and Moscow.
“Our administration will invest our time and our energy to fortify partnerships across the continent. Partnerships grounded in candour, openness, inclusiveness, shared interests and mutual benefits,” she said at the summit. “And overall, our administration will be guided not by what we can do for Africa but what we can do with Africa,” she added.
Allen said Harris will focus on strengthening that message while engaging on the ground with the African Diaspora.
The vice president’s trip may also feel like a sort of homecoming after she spent time there as a young girl in the 1960’s, according to The Los Angeles Times, when visiting her maternal grandfather who was on assignment in his role as an Indian civil servant.