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Biden touts U.S. relations with African nations, announces efforts to bolster trade

Biden is expected to announce Thursday that he intends to travel to sub-Saharan Africa next year for the first time since he took office, two administration officials said.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden touted relations between the U.S. and African nations Wednesday, addressing a gathering of nearly 50 leaders from the continent and announcing initiatives to bolster trade.

Speaking at the three-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, Biden emphasized that Africa is critical to the success of the U.S. and global communities. Multiple crises in recent years, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, wars, economic challenges and climate change, prove African countries have played important roles on the world stage, Biden said.

"Each of these crises has only heightened the vital role African nations and people play to address the global challenges that drive our global progress," Biden said. "We can’t solve any of these challenges without African leadership at the table."

The U.S., for example, worked with African countries to distribute millions of doses of vaccines to combat Covid, Biden said, and invested in the continent's capacity to manufacture its own vaccines, tests and treatment options.

"The United States is all in on Africa’s future," Biden said.

Biden is expected to announce during the summit Thursday that he intends to travel to sub-Saharan Africa next year for the first time since he took office, two administration officials said.

He also said Wednesday that the U.S. is signing a memorandum of understanding with the secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area, a pact that would create a free-trade market, "one of the largest" in the world. The agreement will help “unlock new opportunities for trade and investment between our countries and bring Africa and United States even closer than ever," he added.

Biden said the U.S. is investing to facilitate greater regional trade within Africa, including in infrastructure that would help certain countries on the continent to shift from coal-fired power plants to renewable energy sources, as well as build solar energy projects and high-speed internet.

"The bottom line is simple," Biden said. "Trade runs on reliable infrastructure to support and secure resilient supply chains, and improving Africa’s infrastructure is essential to our vision of building a stronger global economy that can better withstand the kinds of shocks that we’ve seen in the past few years."

The last time Washington held such a summit was in 2014 during the Obama administration.