US prepares to host 1,000 African officials as Leaders Summit details emerge

By Julian Pecquet

Posted on Friday, 25 November 2022 10:18
Former US President Barack Obama delivers opening remarks at the first US-Africa Leaders Summit Session One on 'Investing in Africa's Future,' at the U.S. State Department in Washington August 6, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

The Joe Biden administration expects upwards of 1,000 African government and business leaders to descend on Washington next month for diplomatic talks and commercial dealmaking, according to US officials and leaked planning documents.

Already, 45 out of 49 invited heads of state – plus African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki – have confirmed their attendance, White House senior advisor for the US-Africa Leaders Summit Dana Banks told reporters this week.

With each delegation bringing 20 or more people, the administration expects numerous individual encounters to take place over the three-day event, with President Biden himself vowing to spend “real quality time” with his guests while Cabinet-level officials hold their own bilateral meetings with heads of state.

“I think one of the big outcomes is going to be this incredible energy that comes from thousands of individual meetings,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Robert Scott said on the call with Banks.

“Whether it be a business meeting with a minister of trade, or an investor, or two people who are both involved in fashion or movie-making or music coming together… It’s going to run across so many different aspects of the continent and the United States working together.”

Engaging civil society

Engagement with civil society will be a key focus of the summit, both as part of the official agenda and during private events on the sidelines.

As early as Thursday 8 December, the nonprofit Humanity United will host a virtual event on the protection of African migrant workers. And on Monday 12 December, the eve of the summit’s official launch, non-governmental organisations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Humanity United and the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) will host an African Human Rights Leaders Summit with African democracy leaders.

The official summit starts Tuesday 13 December, with a series of forums dedicated to young leaders from the continent and the diaspora; civil society; peace, security and governance; health cooperation; climate adaptation and a just energy transition; and US-African cooperation in civil and commercial space research.

African heads of delegations and ministers of defence, health, energy and science and technology are invited to the respective events, according to a preliminary agenda obtained by The Africa Report.


Every African government except those that don’t have diplomatic relations with the US (Eritrea, Western Sahara) or have been suspended by the African Union (Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali and Sudan) were not invited. But even those four latter countries will have some form of representation.

“We do have plans to incorporate members of their civil societies and their communities in the dialogue and the civil society forum,” Banks said, “and perhaps in some other engagements that are planned.”

In a departure from the first US-Africa Leaders Summit, which President Barack Obama hosted in 2014, this second iteration will focus heavily on engagement with the African diaspora.

In addition to the young leaders’ forum, Africa Mbele, a new Georgia-based nonprofit organisation dedicated to mobilising the African diaspora will host an awards gala at the John F. Kennedy Centere for Performing Arts on 12 December.

“The African Union has identified the African diaspora as the sixth region of the African Union,” Scott said. “And we also see the diaspora as a huge resource and opportunity for engagement.”

Business first

Commercial engagement will also be a major focus of the summit.

“A big focus of ours right now is to ensure that we’re able to matchmake,” Scott said, “and that there are as many opportunities as possible for businesses to meet with governments and other businesses.”

Wednesday 14 December, will be dedicated to a US-Africa Business Forum hosted by the US Department of Commerce, the US Chamber of Commerce and the Corporate Council on Africa.

The event will notably include a “deal room” hosted by the multi-agency Prosper Africa initiative where US and African businesses and investors will be announcing “new and expanded commitments by the hour,” according to the State Department.

A big focus of ours right now is to ensure that we’re able to matchmake.

Several African leaders are expected to speak at business events, with Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina addressing an Invest Africa side event on 12 December.

That same day, the Corporate Council on Africa will host a business and investment roundtable with President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique and an evening reception for Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi.

The council will also host business and investment forums with Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch on 13 December and with President William Ruto of Kenya and President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria on Friday, 16 December, after the official summit is over.

“This forum is really about making connections,” Banks said. “As we know, in business, networking and making connections is key for advancing deals … to achieve the goals of not only the countries but of the people, of the workforce in those countries. The forum presents an opportunity for the public and private sectors to strategise on how to unleash the full potential of economic growth on the continent.”

Meeting Biden

President Biden will host the African leaders at the White House for a dinner on the second night, 14 December. The principals are all invited along with their spouse, one “essential staff”, one photographer and interpreters as needed, according to the leaked agenda.

The last day of the summit, 15 December, will be dedicated to sessions on partnering on the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and promoting food security and food systems resilience.

A working lunch will be focused on deepening multilateralism with Africa, with the African Union Commission head of delegation invited to address the attendees.

“President Biden has underscored that … respect for democracy and human rights are at the core of our foreign policy. We’re doing so in line with the African Union and its aspirations as laid out in agenda 2063, [in] which one of the seven aspirations talks about an Africa of good governance, democracy, and respect for human rights,” Banks said.

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