Democrat President Joe Biden has pledged $55 billion in U.S. taxpayer money to Africa as slavery reparations while apologizing to the continent’s leaders for America’s “original sin.”
Biden made the pledge while speaking during a gathering of almost all African leaders in Washington D.C. on Wednesday.
The president apologized for the “unimaginable cruelty” of slavery, which he referred to as “my nation’s original sin.”
Biden expressed regret for the past but insisted that “the United States is all in on Africa’s future.”
During a White House dinner honoring African leaders and their spouses, Biden addressed what he called America’s “original sin.”
He honored the descendants of slaves and the broader African diaspora community in the United States.
“Our people lie at the heart of the deep and profound connection that forever binds Africa and the United States together,” he said.
“We remember the stolen men and women and children were brought to our shores in chains, subjected to unimaginable cruelty.”
The White House confirmed that $55 billion was being directed to Africa to invest in the areas of health, “climate change,” trade, and women’s initiatives.
However, the offer of money was met with scorn by some.
In 2014, former President Barack Obama convened a similar summit of African leaders in D.C.
Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda, was asked earlier on Wednesday whether the 2014 summit yielded concrete results.
“Well, at least we had a good meeting,” Kagame replied, mocking the White House’s promises to laughter from those assembled.
Biden’s outreach attempt was seen by many as a way of limiting the power of China, which has invested more in Africa than any other nation.
Beijing has held its own high-level meetings with African leaders every three years for over two decades.
Chinese trade with Africa is about four times that of the United States, and Beijing has become an important creditor by offering cheaper loans – often with opaque terms and collateral requirements – than Western lenders.
But, despite Biden’s overtures, many African leaders rejected the idea that they need to choose between the United States and China.
“The fact that both countries have different levels of relations with African countries makes them equally important for Africa’s development,” said Taye Atske Selassie Amde, Ethiopia’s United Nations ambassador.
“However, it should be known each African country has the agency to determine their respective relationship and best interest.”
Before the dinner, Biden met leaders from Gabon, Liberia, and others facing elections in 2023.
They repeatedly spoke about elections, democratic principles, and the green agenda.
“Africa’s economic transition depends on good government, healthy populations, and reliable and affordable energy,” he told the summit.
“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 of Africa’s inclusive growth and creating the best possible environment for sustained commercial engagement between Africa companies and American companies.”
Biden has been holding more high-level discussions among leaders during Thursday.
Biden will open the day with a session on partnering with the African Union’s strategic vision for the continent.
Jill Biden hosted a program for spouses Wednesday morning at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, where she told the crowd “my hope is that the way we make each other feel will last beyond this summit.”
The summit is the largest international gathering in Washington since before the start of the pandemic.