February 8, 2023

Remarks by President Biden at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum and Dinner

President Joseph R. Biden Jr. at the U.S.-Africa Leaders' Summit on Wednesday, December 14, 2022, in Washington DC
President Joseph R. Biden Jr. at the U.S.-Africa Leaders' Summit on Wednesday, December 14, 2022, in Washington DC

Walter E. Washington Convention Center Washington, D.C. December 13, 2022

1:47 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, hello, hello.  (Applause.)  It’s good to see you all.  Please have a seat.  And I know you’re saying to yourselves, “Make it short, Biden.  There’s a…” — (laughter) — “… There’s a semi-final game coming up.”  (Laughter.)  I get it.

I see Secretary Kerry over there nodding.  Hey, John.  How are you, pal?  (Laughs.)

Well, I want to thank Secretary Raimondo — she is one of the brightest and best folks I have working with me — and for all of you in this room for making this forum a success, particularly in Prosper Africa deal room.

That sounds like something we shouldn’t be saying.  “Prop-” — you know, “Prosper Africa deal room.”  I kept asking, “Where’s — where’s the deal room?”  I think I’m looking at it.

Folks, I want to thank you all for being here, particularly since I said Morocco is about to play as the first African nation in the semi-finals of the World Cup.  (Applause.) 

Distinguished heads of state; leaders of regional and global institutions; and, of course, representatives of more than 300 companies, African and American: Welcome to Washington.

And I want to recognize our co-host, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Corporate Council of Africa — two great compa- — two great champions for building and growing ties of business and trade and investment between Africa and the United States — as well as the members of my administration and the members of Congress who are here today.

All the members of Congress, please stand up, if you’re here so I know — can identify who you are.  (Applause.)  There’s the man.  All right.  And I’m sure you’re out there somewhere.

Look, this forum is about building connections.  It’s about closing deals.  And above all, it’s about the future, our shared future.

We’ve known for a long time that Africa’s success and prosperity is essential to ensuring a better future for all of us, not just for Africa. 

I’ve been engaged in these issues going back to my days as a young man in the United States Senate.  When I was on the Foreign Relations Committee, I was chairman of the African Affairs subcommittee and got to spend a lot of time in Africa.  I’ve visited almost all of your countries.

When I was Vice President, serving with President Obama, we hosted the first U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, including U.S.-Africa Business Forum.

We saw so clearly the enormous potential that we could harness if we did it together.  And holding the first-of-its-kind summit in 2014 was a watershed moment to cement new kinds of partnerships between our nations, partnerships not to create political obligation, not — or foster dependence — its dependence, but to spur shared success — I emphasize “shared success” — and opportunity.  Because when Africa succeeds, the United States succeeds; quite frankly, the whole world succeeds as well.

Now, eight years later, the world has undergone a great many changes.

We’re still grappling with a deadly pandemic, facing down war and instability, addressing economic challenges of — with global impact, fighting — fighting rising food prices, tackling the impacts of climate change.

And each of these crises has only heightened — heightened the vital role African nations and peoples play to address the global challenges that drive our global progress.

We can’t solve any of these challenges without African leadership at the table — and I’m not trying to be nice; that’s a fact — African ideas and innovation helping to shape the solutions and Africa population contributing to every step. 

So the only question when I took office was not if we’d host another U.S.-African Leadership Summit, but when.

My administration’s engagement with Africa and the priority we place on these relationships began on day one.

We’ve been working steadily with regional diplomacy and investments to demonstrate our commitment.

We harnessed decades — decades of cooperation through PEPFAR and President’s Malaria Initiative, and other partnerships on global health security to help save lives and combat Clovid-ni- [sic] — COVID-19.

The United States delivered 231 — 231 million doses of vaccines to 49 countries across Africa, and worked together with you to get the vaccines into the arms to har- — in hard-to-reach communities.

Critically, we invested in Africa’s capacity to manufacture its own vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics so Africa — Africa can meet its own needs and contribute to the global supply chain.

And even as we work to end COVID-19, we continue building stronger health systems and institutions, and accelerating efforts to achieve universal health coverage to make sure we’re better prepared to tackle the health challenges, including the next pandemic.  And there surely will be one.

We also advanced our commitment to strengthen food security, including expanding the Feed the Future program to partner with eight additional African countries.

And I’ll be speaking more tomorrow about this effort to both address the immediate food crisis and strengthen the food system in Africa for the long term.

We’re taking on climate crisis, prioritizing just — not just energy transition in America but in nations of all of Africa, and meeting the urgent needs to countries to adapt to the climate impacts that are already here.

Just last month, I traveled to COP27 in Egypt where I announced $150 million in an effort to support adaptation efforts in Africa, a down payment on my commitment to provide $3 billion annually to global adaptation efforts for 2024.

And in a year that has seen elections across Africa, we have worked together with the African Union to strengthen democracy and the core values that unite our people — all our people, especially young people — freedom, opportunity, transparency, good governance.

Now, you might be thinking this is a forum dedicated to deepening business ties and advancing two-way trade investments between Africa and the United States.  “Why is Biden talking so much about all these other areas?”

Well, it’s because Africa’s economic transition depends on good government, healthy populations, and reliable and affordable energy.  These things business seeks out when they’re looking to invest.  They attract new opportunities, and they launch new partnerships.

And the United States is committed to supporting every aspect — every aspect of Africa’s inclusive growth and creating the best possible environment for sustained commercial engagement between Africa companies and American companies.

The United States is all in on Africa’s future.  And the work we’ve done over the past two years, building on decades of vital investments made under previous American presidents, has helped make possible the critical steps that I’m about to announce.

First, the United States is signing an historic memorandum of understanding with the new African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat.  This MOU will unlock new opportunities for trade and investment between our countries and bring Africa and the United States even closer than ever.

This is an enormous opportunity — an enormous opportunity for Africa’s future, and the United States wants to help make those opportunities real.

We’re finally implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area.  It will represent one of the largest free trade areas in the world, 1.3 billion people, and a continent-wide market totaling $3.4 trillion.

And with the new MOU, we’re doing things correctly: enshrining protections for workers both across Africa and in the United States; looking out for small- and medium-sized entrepreneurs and enterprises to make sure they have a fair shot to compete; lifting up opportunity for women-owned businesses, diaspora-owned businesses, and businesses owned by members of historically underserved communities; and supporting and investing in the continent’s vibrant and growing urban economies.

Together, we want to build a future of opportunity where no one — no one is left behind.

Second, we’re investing to facilitate greater regional trade within Africa, including by investing in infrastructure.

Today, the Millennium Challenge Corporation signed its first-ever regional transport compact with the governments of Benin and Niger.  This compact will invest $500 million to build and maintain roads, put in place policies that reduce transportation costs, making it easier and faster for ships to ship goods from the Port of Cot- — excuse me, from the Port of Cotonou to neighboring locked — landlocked countries.

Since the start of my administration, the MCC has announced new investments of nearly $1.2 billion in Africa.   We expect the MCC to commit an additional $2.5 billion across Africa in just the next three years, supporting everything from agriculture to transportation to access to renewable energy.

In fact, the MCC just announced dec- — decis- — excuse me — just announced discussions for partnerships with four African countries, our first com- — four compacts: Gambia, Togo to boost economic development; and a compact with Senegal to bolster regional connections; and a threshold program with Mauritania to help strengthen democratic governance and pursue policy reform to unlock economic growth.  (Applause.)

These MCC investments are part of the work we’re doing worldwide through the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment. 

I proposed this initiative together with the rest of the G7 to help fill the need for quality, high-standard infrastructure in Africa and in low-income and middle-income countries around the world.  And at the G7 meeting earlier this year, we announced our intention to collectively mobilize $600 billion in the next five years.

Today’s announcements joint — join a portfolio of Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment projects already underway in Africa, including mobilizing $8 billion in public and private finance to help South Africa replace coal-fired power plants with renewable energy sources and develop cutting-edge energy solutions like clean hydrogen; a deal worth $2 billion to build solar energy projects in Angola; $600 million in high-speed telecommunications cable that will connect Southeast Asia to Europe via Egypt and the Horn of Africa and help bring high-speed Internet connectivity to countries all along the way. 

The bottom line is simple: Trade runs on reliable infrastructure to support and secure resilient supply chains.

And improving Africa’s infrastructure is essential to our vision of building a stronger global economy that can better withstand the kinds of shocks that we’ve seen in the past few years.

Third, we’re continuing to support innovation and entrepreneurship across Africa, investing in the African — investing in Africa’s people.

Developing human capital, alongside physical infrastructure, is another core aspect of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment. 

Today, I’m announcing that the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation is investing nearly $370 million in new projects: $100 million to increase the reliable clean energy for millions of people in Sub-Saharan Africa; $20 million to provide financing for fertilizer to help smallholder farmers, particularly women farmers, increase the yields of their crops; $10 million to support small- and medium-sized — small- and medium-sized enterprises that help bring clean drinking water to communities all across the continent. 

Just to name a few examples.  (Applause.) 

And we also know — and we also know that one the most essential resources of any entrepreneur or small-business owner who wants to participate in the global economy is reliable and affordable access to the Internet.

So, today, I’m announcing a new initiative: the Digital Transformation with Africa.  Working with Congress to invest $350 billion [million] to facilitate more than almost half a billion dollars in financing to make sure more people across Africa can participate in the digital economy.  (Applause.) 

That includes partnerships like a new collaboration between Microsoft and Viasat to bring in Internet access to 5 million Africans, part of Microsoft’s commitment to bring access to 100 million people across Africa by the end of the year 2025.

That means — that means programs to train African entrepreneurs with a focus on women entrepreneurs to code and build skills that need to start their own businesses, to secure good-paying jobs and technol- — with technology firms.

And this will include partnerships between Africa, American comp- — African and American companies to provide cybersecurity services to make sure Africa’s digital environment is reliable and secure.

And that brings me to my final announcement.  I said at the top of this forum about closing deals, and we’ve delivered. 

So, just give me a few — let’s give you a few highlights from the deal room, for the benefits they will deliver to Africa.

Cisco Systems and Cy- — Cybastion, a diaspora-owned small business, is jointly announcing $800 million in new contracts to protect African countries from cyber threats.  (Applause.) 

Visa is committing and putting more than $1 billion into Africa over the next five years to further expand the operations on the continent, including providing mobile payment services for more micro-, small-, and medium-sized businesses across Africa.  (Applause.) 

General Electric and Standard Bank will together provide $80 million to improve healthcare services and provide access to cutting-edge healthcare equipment.

Altogether, the forum has spurred more than $15 billion in new deals, which will turn, lift up, and improve lives of people all across the continent.  And that’s the biggest deal of all. 

These are long-term investments that are going to deliver real benefits to people; create new, good-paying jobs, including here in the United States; and expand opportunities for all our countries for the years to come.

All of you — all of you, the deals you’ve signed, the investments we’ve made together, are concrete proof of the enduring commitment we’re making to one another, government to government, business to business, people to people. 

And most important — and this is just the beginning — there’s so much more we can do together and that we will do together.

So, thank you for your participation today, for being part of another historic U.S.-African Leaders Summit.

We’ve got a lot of ground to cover in the coming days, and I’m eager to listen to the priorities you have for the future of the partnership between our nations.

So, thank you all.  And may God protect our troops.  Thank you very, very much.  Appreciate it.  (Applause.) 

Thank you.  Thank you very much.

2:04 P.M. EST

READ ALSO: REMARKS BY PRESIDENT BIDEN AND PRESIDENT SALL OF THE REPUBLIC OF SENEGAL AT THE U.S.-AFRICA LEADERS SUMMIT DINNER
 
East Room

7:16 P.M. EST

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Good evening. Hello, hello. Good evening, everyone.

My name is Joe Biden. I am Jill Biden’s husband. And welcome. All of you, welcome to the White House.

And, you know, we saw — as you saw coming in, we’ve decorated the holidays around a theme, which every year the President picks a theme or the First Lady picks a theme for the holidays. And the theme this year was “We the People.”

These are the first words of our Constitution and the very idea of America. And they’re the leading words of many of your constitutions, for: We the people of Kenya. We the people of Namibia. We the people of Liberia. We the people of the
Federal Republic of Niger. And so many others.

“We the People” reminds us that our countries’ greatest strength lies in just that: our people. Our people lie at the heart of the deep and profound connection that forever binds Africa and the United States together.

We remember the stolen men and women and children who were brought to our shores in chains, subjected to unimaginable cruelty.

My nation’s original sin was that period.

We honor their descendants, who our generations have — for generations have helped build this country and propel it to higher heights, leading the charge, blazing new trails, and forging a better future for everyone in America.

We celebrate an African diaspora community in the United States, millions strong, pulling America [Africa] and the United States together in the tight embrace of family.

I might add that includes my former boss, a man I was honored to serve with, Barack Obama — beside him for eight years — who convened the first U.S.-African Leaders Summit back when he was President.

As leaders, our people inspire us. They awaken us — they awaken in us the possibilities that are within our grasp. And there are so many possibilities if we work together.

They tell us hard truths that we need to hear. And sometimes, we have trouble listening.

They challenge us to live up to the values enshrined in so many of our founding documents and to be worthy of the responsibility given to us by that sacred trust, “We the People.”

In my years of being engaged in politics and in international relations, I have never been more optimistic — and I mean it sincerely — I have never been more optimistic about our shared future, because our people — because particularly of our young people in all our countries.

Together, we can deliver a world that is healthier and safer, more equal, more just, more prosperous, and more filled with opportunity for everyone.

So please join me in raising your glass — if I can find one. (Laughs.) This is mine here?

WHITE HOUSE STAFF: Yes, here.

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Raising your glass to the people of America — to the people of the United States, to the people of Africa, and to the promise and potential of our partnership.

Here, here. (A toast is offered.)

And now I present to you a man who you all know. Mr. President, it’s all yours.

PRESIDENT SALL: Thank you very much, President Joseph Biden, First Lady Jill Biden, Madam Vice President Kamala Harris, Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff.

Dear colleagues from Africa, ladies and gentlemen: On behalf of my African colleagues, I thank you, Mr. President, for this wonderful dinner on the occasion of the second USA-Africa Summit.

Thank you also for your kind invitation. We appreciate the time and effort you and your administration have devoted to the preparatory process of the summit over the past several months. This is a testimony of our longstanding, diverse, and vibrant relations.

This afternoon, Mr. President, during the Business Summit, your speech was so powerful, so inspiring, and so positive for our common future. We share the same spirit. We want to advance our common agenda with you and take our partnership to the next level in an inclusive approach, bringing together governments, the private sector, civil society, and the African diaspora.

We have been walking in this direction since our arrival in Washington, D.C., and we are confident that our summit will produce results that reflect our shared commitment.

On behalf of Africa, I invite all of you to join me for a toast in honor of our host, President Joseph Biden, First Lady Jill Biden. In honor of the American people and for the reinforcement of American-African friendship and cooperation, I thank you.

(A toast is offered.)

7:22 P.M. EST


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