As 2023 draws to a close, Biden’s promised visit to Africa shows no signs of coming to fruition just yet.

by MMC
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American presidents tend to reveal their priorities through their calendars. Biden has pledged closer relations with African countries. He also highlighted the importance of global leadership on climate change.

Facing what could be a tough re-election campaign in 2024, Biden is juggling a mix of other domestic and foreign concerns. Africa appears to have taken a back seat despite Biden’s effusive declarations last December at a summit in Washington with 49 leaders that it would be a strategic priority as the United States made political and financial commitments. .

“I look forward to visiting your continent,” Biden said at the summit nearly a year ago. “I look forward to seeing many of you in your home country. »

Mvemba Dizolele, director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said if Biden fails to visit the continent this year, it would “kill the momentum a little bit.”

“It was a crescendo, and then we leave our potential partners in Africa hanging,” he said. “What are they supposed to think?” »

Others consider this possible trip as largely symbolic, having little impact on African leaders.

Such visits are often made as a political gesture “to make people feel good,” said Jideofor Adibe, a professor of political science and international relations at Nasarawa State University in Nigeria.

Rather than seeking state visits, Africa should use its growing global appeal – as evidenced by the African Union’s new membership in the Group of 20 major economies – “to put its house in order and ensure effective representation so as to amplify Africa’s influence. voices,” he said.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said this week he had no information on when the president might visit Africa. Administration officials declined to provide an overview of their travel plans after The Associated Press asked separately, but they emphasized Biden’s commitment to reducing the use of fossil fuels and his hopes for a productive climate summit.

Biden has had a turbulent year and that has made travel planning difficult.

The president just met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and attended a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders in California. The strikes of auto workers and Hollywood writers and actors have just been settled. Biden is ramping up his re-election campaign and faces the risk of a federal government shutdown early next year.

He also deals with wars on two continents, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the fighting between Israel and Hamas.

“At one level, the crisis in the Middle East, combined with the current crisis in Ukraine, offers a kind of alibi,” said Daniel Russell, vice president for international security and diplomacy at Asia Society Policy Institute.

Biden traveled to the 2021 United Nations climate change summit in Glasgow, Scotland, and the 2022 climate conference in Egypt. Officials involved in preparations for the 2023 summit appeared to recognize that world leaders face a range of challenges this year due to wars.

The director of the United Nations Environment Program, Inger Andersen, said the agency would like to have as many heads of state as possible at the negotiations, but that “we all understand the pressures and other crises that are occurring across the world “.

She said the U.S.-China climate deal reached earlier this month was a good start and that both countries had seasoned climate envoys, which would compensate.

Still, the idea that Biden might skip the Dubai summit stung some.

African leaders have welcomed the idea of ​​a Biden visit to their continent in the months since his announcement. Other officials who have visited Africa this year include Vice President Kamala Harris, first lady Jill Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

When Harris visited Africa in March, the leaders she met often stressed the importance of follow-up from Biden.

President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana noted that former President Donald Trump – the Republican frontrunner for 2024 – had not visited the country, unlike Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

“We hope that President Biden will also be there to restore that trajectory,” he said.

Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan told Harris that her country was excited about Biden’s visit.

“Tanzanians are now looking forward to President Joe Biden’s visit to Tanzania,” she told the US vice president. “And please convey our greetings and our invitation that Tanzania looks forward to welcoming him.”

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AP writers Seth Borenstein and Chinedu Asadu contributed to this report. Asadu reported from Abuja, Nigeria.

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