February 5, 2023

Today News Africa asks Jake Sullivan why White House failed to schedule bilateral meetings between Biden and African leaders during U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks to reporters Monday, Aug. 23, 2021, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Erin Scott)
White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks to reporters Monday, Aug. 23, 2021, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Erin Scott)

The White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan came to the White House briefing room on Monday to preview the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit President Joseph R. Biden Jr. is hosting in Washington D.C. December 13-15.

During the briefing, I asked him why the White House failed to schedule any bilateral meetings between Biden and African leaders when they have traveled thousands of miles and are spending tens of thousands of dollars each night on their hotel rooms.

Sullivan responded that President Biden “will have the chance to greet every single African leader and engage with them as they come for the dinner (Wednesday) night.”
 

Q    Thank you.  Thank you, Jake.  I went around yesterday to see how much African leaders were paying for the hotel for this trip, and I realized that some of the hotels in D.C. were charging them up to $22,000 a night.  So, it’s an expensive trip.  Some of them, they spend $50 million — for countries where people live on less than a U.S. dollar a day.  And so, my question is: If they have to spend all this money and travel thousands of miles, why wasn’t the White House — why didn’t the White House plan one-on-one meetings with those African leaders?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  Well, first, the President will have the chance to greet every single African leader and engage with them as they come for the dinner tomorrow night. 
 
Second, if you look at the substance of this summit, the sessions that he is going to sit with those leaders around the table and deal with, it is the things that they have asked to talk about that he will be talking about with them.  And those leaders will have the opportunity to speak in those sessions to President Biden and to one another so that we can collectively come up with a common strategy to deliver for the people of Africa. 
 
And if you look at what substance this summit is going to deliver — from the business forum, all the way through to the leader sessions — I believe that it is going to be three days where you will see put on display real, tangible deliverables and results that are going to improve people’s lives. 
 
And, ultimately, as I said before, I will ask you: Judge us on the record of how that ends up playing out.  But I’m confident that it is going to play out well.
 


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