Agoa.info - African Growth and Opportunity Act
TRALAC - Trade Law Centre
You are here: Home/News/Article/'Poor relatives always show up, rich ones don't', Biden says as he plans Africa trip

'Poor relatives always show up, rich ones don't', Biden says as he plans Africa trip

'Poor relatives always show up, rich ones don't', Biden says as he plans Africa trip
Published date:
Friday, 16 December 2022

U.S. President Joe Biden capped a summit of 50 African leaders by stressing his administration's deep commitment to Africa, urging the continent's leaders to respect the will of their people, and saying he may come visit.

The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit concluded Thursday with bonhomie, $55 billion (Sh6.8 trillion) in U.S. commitments, and this from Biden:

"As I told some of you — you invited me to your countries," he said. "I said, "Be careful what you wish for because I may show up. The poor relatives always show up. The wealthy ones never show up. The poor come and they eat your food and stay longer than they should. Well, I'm looking forward to seeing many of you in your home countries."

He did not give details of the possible trip.

It's a striking joke from the leader of the world's wealthiest nation, who spent much of Wednesday touting U.S. plans to deliver $55 billion (Sh6.8 trillion) in assistance to a continent struggling with food insecurity, inequality and a painful legacy of colonialism.

But jokes aside, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations told VOA that a presidential trip would have a big impact.

"This will be an opportunity for the people of Africa — whatever countries, if the president decides to make such a visit — that they will actually see our commitment to them," said Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who spoke to VOA on the sidelines of the summit.

Many kinds of diplomacy

These grand gestures and big promises contrast with the quieter diplomacy happening at this summit, which included pull-asides between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the leaders of Ethiopia and Congo — both countries with active conflicts. In talks with Ethiopia's prime minister, the U.S. "urged accelerated implementation" of a recent peace agreement and "access to the conflict areas by international human rights monitors," the State Department said.

Blinken also met with stable West African ally Senegal, whose president is the chairperson of the African Union, and with the president of Southern Africa energy giant Angola.

Analysts say the U.S. is trying to work with a range of African partners — regardless of their track records — on issues where they can find common ground.

"I think what Washington is trying to do is diversify its relationships on the continent and not make them dependent on any one leader or any one group of countries because what we have seen is these countries remain fragile and a strategic partner today could be engulfed in civil war tomorrow," said Cameron Hudson, an analyst on African peace, security, and governance at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He spoke to VOA via Zoom.

'Critical time for democracy globally'

Biden also invited the leaders of Congo, Gabon, Liberia, Madagascar, Nigeria and Sierra Leone to a private meeting on Wednesday, where they discussed their upcoming elections during what the White House says is a "critical time for democracy globally."

Publicly, Biden affirmed support for more African representation at the G-20 and the U.N. Security Council — while also not ignoring leaders' shortfalls.

"As leaders, our people inspire us," he said. "They awaken us to possibilities that are within our grasp. 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."

That particular message falls on some old ears. Cameroon's Paul Biya is 89. Republic of Congo's Denis Sassou Nguesso is 79, as is Nigeria's Muhammadu Buhari. Many of these men — and all but one African head of state is male — were born well before their countries gained independence, on a continent where the median age is just 18.

What will they take back to their homelands, other than full pockets and warm memories?

Read related news articles

Statement from President Biden on AGOA reauthorization

I strongly support reauthorization of the African Growth and Opportunity Act— a landmark, bipartisan law that has formed a bedrock for U.S. trade with sub-Saharan Africa for more than two decades. I encourage Congress to reauthorize AGOA in a timely fashion and to modernize this important Act for the economic opportunities of the coming decade. AGOA is facilitating private-sector led economic growth across sub-Saharan Africa by increasing...

01 November 2023

Will Biden visit Africa this year?

President Joe Biden’s agenda is chock-full with many competing and challenging issues. Nevertheless, at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit last December, the president said that he would visit Africa in 2023. No details have been made public, but hopefully planning is well underway for what would be the first visit to the continent by a U.S. president since President Obama went to Kenya and Ethiopia in 2015. While the administration...

22 September 2023

US AGOA and private sector collaboration as backbone for strengthening relations with Africa

With over 1300 delegates at the US-African  Business Summit held mid-July in Gaborone, Botswana, the main focus was on mapping out strategies to strengthen trade and economic relations between the United States and Africa. Majority of the speakers emphasized reviewing and widening collaboration between governments, while others underlined the importance of the private sector as the key driver in achieving  robust economic growth in...

17 July 2023

US and Africa: increased engagement regarding trade creating opportunities in the African free trade area

There was more good news for the successful implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement in December 2022, when a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the United States (US) Trade Representative and the AfCFTA Secretariat at the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit (Summit) in Washington DC. The MoU covers expanded engagement between the two regions and intends to “promote equitable, sustainable, and...

01 May 2023

The US-Africa Leaders Summit marks a seismic shift in relations with the continent

The second edition of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit (ALS) took place in Washington last week. Much has changed since former president Barack Obama held the inaugural summit in 2014, halfway through his second term. At that time, the geopolitical environment for strengthening ties was less fraught: global economic integration was accelerating, and Africa was “rising” from sluggish growth and persistent poverty. The initial summit was...

28 December 2022

Key to Africa’s growth is within the continent

The outcome of the US-Africa Leaders Summit once again shows why the continent is better off looking inwards for solutions. As the dust settles, the deals unveiled at the summit are coming under closer scrutiny. The $15 billion and the headline commitment by President Joe Biden to inject $55 billion into the continent over a three-year period have particularly attracted animated debate. On social media platforms, many commentators suggested...

17 December 2022

US and AfCFTA members sign MOU on trade cooperation

On December 14, 2022, the United States and African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat (AfCFTA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation for Trade and Investment between the United States and the African Continental Free Trade Area (MOU) see document alongside.  The MOU  was signed by U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai and AfCFTA Secretary General Wamkele Mene during the 2022 U.S.-Africa...

15 December 2022

US apparel and footwear association calls for prioritising AGOA renewal at US-Africa Leaders Summit

The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) and more than 20 organisations have appealed for long-term renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The apparel industry of US, in a letter to President Joe Biden, urged the government to prioritise this request at the ongoing US-Africa Leaders Summit that will end on December 15, 2022. The organisations emphasised on the timely renewal of AGOA for a 10-year period, so...

15 December 2022

White House Statement on US-Africa Leaders Summit: Strengthening partnerships to meet shared priorities

The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, from December 13-15 in Washington DC, highlighted the U.S. commitment to expanding and deepening our partnership with African countries, institutions, and people.  Our world is quickly changing, and U.S. engagement in Africa must evolve accordingly.  African leadership and contributions are essential to addressing today’s pressing challenges and achieving shared priorities.  The Biden-Harris...

14 December 2022

Fact sheet: US- Africa partnership in promoting two-way trade and investment in Africa

Africa’s integration into global markets, demographic boom, and continent-wide spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation present an extraordinary opportunity for the United States to invest in Africa’s future.   The United States will support and facilitate mobilizing private capital to fuel economic growth, job creation, and greater U.S. participation in Africa’s future.   Together, business and government leaders will...

14 December 2022

You are here: Home/News/Article/'Poor relatives always show up, rich ones don't', Biden says as he plans Africa trip