U.S. Working On Africa’s Place At G20, UN Security Council – Deputy Assistant Secretary Amy Holman
By Ajong Mbapndah L
U.S. State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Africa Bureau, Amy Holman says the U.S. is working on having a place for Africa at the G20 and the United Nations Security Council. Speaking to Pan African Visions on the sidelines of the US-African Leaders Summit, Deputy Assistant Secretary Holman said the US was excited to support the inclusion of an additional African voice into these two bodies which are so important for economic and financial governance and upholding a world order that has served us well.
“This is a summit that focuses on our partnerships; we have been working with Africa for decades, not just on security, investment and trade but also on areas that touched on the daily lives of Africa,” Deputy Assistant Secretary Holman said in the interview which also addressed some invitation controversies and other policy statements from the Biden administration.
How is the feeling within the Biden Administration two days into the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit?
Ambassador Amy Holman: We are thrilled to have 50 African delegations here who are all in good standing with the Africa union; that was the criteria for inclusion in this summit, to be in good standing with the Africa Union. This is long overdue; our last summit was in 2014 and when the Biden Administration came in, we started to think about having this summit, and how we will structure and time it. It is amazing to have fifty of our partners from the continent here in Washington to have important discussions about world sustainability. It is not just security discussions, but also discussions on economic development and economic investment.
We are delighted to have some heads of state plus some two hundred business leaders; this event has been hugely over-subscribed with a lot of interest in how we can expand our trade and investment relationships with our African partners. This is a summit that focuses on our partnerships; we have been working with Africa for decades, not just on security, investment and trade but also on areas that touched on the daily lives of Africa. Whether it is our health initiatives which people will know (the PEPAR Initiative) from the Bush era where we have dramatically increased life expectancy for people who have been touched by HIV/Aids and have been making available for years now retroviral medicines so that they can live normal lives. This has made a huge difference to countries that have been most touched by that.
We had a huge effort to get COVID vaccines to the continent and I think that was a success, followed by that success in conjunction with the AU, and the United Nations. Following vaccines distribution, we also realized that the African continent wanted to be able to manufacture its vaccines; we are working on establishing vaccine centers in Rwanda, South Africa, Senegal and one country in Northern Africa, so, that African countries can be able to manufacture the most modern vaccines available, not just COVID but other vaccines as well. That is an area where we are putting a bit of resource into. We have also been financing education; not just our exchange program but also programs for youths. Africa is a youthful continent and we want to help in ensuring that many of these budding leaders to expose top leadership opportunities. We will like to do this in greater quantities but we all have to start from somewhere. We are very focused on how we can be partners with African countries.
Let us talk a little bit about the criteria for an invitation. People are a little bit curious as to why Chad which has a military ruler was invited whereas other countries under military rule were not. Why the exception for Chad?
Ambassador Amy Holman: Chad has not been disqualified from the African Union and once we chose that criterion, we needed to apply it evenly. President Derby was invited and attended but other African leaders who were disqualified from the African Union were not invited.
PAV: About the promises from the Biden Administration, is it true the administration plans to push for a place for Africa at the G20 and at the UN Security Council?
Ambassador Amy Holman: We are excited to be supporting the inclusion of an additional African voice into these two bodies which are so important for economic and financial governance and for upholding the world order that has served us well. We are very happy to make this announcement and we will be working to see that it is implemented and working with our friends, both the G20 and the UN to increase the African voice in these two institutions.
We also heard about the creation of an Africa Diaspora Council; how will this foster the foreign policy objectives of the U.S. in Africa?
Ambassador Amy Holman: The Diaspora Council will be important for us on what are the views and concerns of the Diaspora. We have always believed but have never been able to harness the economic power of the Diaspora in terms of trade between the U.S. and Africa, between using the family ties and other ties of the Diaspora community which continues to grow and prosper here in the U.S. We want to hear their views and we also want to see how we can leverage these ties to strengthen our partners across Africa.
And for countries that were not invited like Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Mail, how does the US intend to engage with people there?
Ambassador Amy Holman: With people in those countries, we engage through our embassies overseas. We have embassies despite the security in the three Sahel countries. We continue to have strong embassies in all four countries that continue to do the kind of health education, climate and other programming that I mentioned earlier to provide health and education services to the population in these communities and we continue of course to work with each of these governments in a very intense way in the hope of bringing them back to democracy and full membership in the African Union.
Two years into his tenure, President Biden hasn’t visited Africa- Will a visit not be one of the ways to show seriousness of US engagement with Africa.
Ambassador Amy Holman: Absolutely. I hope we can make this visit a reality. That said, the Secretary of State has visited Africa twice, and several cabinet secretaries including Samantha Power and other high-ranking U.S. officials have travelled in great numbers to the African continent to deepen and broaden our partnership.
Any word to the protesters out of the convention grounds clamoring for democracy, respect for human rights and reforms in their countries?
Ambassador Amy Holman: One of the major tenets of our democracy is the freedom to protest peacefully. We welcome these protests that give these groups the opportunities to give their views; we do meet with them on occasion, democracy is one of the primary tenets of our foreign policy and the strategy on Africa from the administration which secretary Blinken announced at ECOWAS, in Abuja in the fall. We hope that there will be increased democracy in all of these countries, and this is something we continue to work on. Democracy and human rights are major tenets of our foreign policy and strategy towards Africa.