Photo of Joe Biden

Remarks at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum

December 14, 2022

Hello, hello, hello. It's good to see you all. Please have a seat. And I know you're saying to yourselves: "Make it short, Biden. There's a"—[laughter]. "There's a semifinal game coming up." [Laughter] I get it. I see Secretary Kerry over there nodding. Hey, John. How are you, pal? [Laughter]

Well, I want to thank Secretary Raimondo—she is one of the brightest and best folks I have working with me—and for all of you in this room for making this forum a success, particularly in Prosper Africa deal room.

That sounds like something we shouldn't be saying. "Prosper"—you know, "Prosper Africa deal room." I kept asking, "Where's the deal room?" I think I'm looking at it.

Folks, I want to thank you all for being here, particularly since I said Morocco is about to play as the first African nation in the semifinals of the World Cup. Distinguished heads of state; leaders of regional and global institutions; and of course, representatives of more than 300 companies, African and American: Welcome to Washington.

And I want to recognize our cohost, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Corporate Council of Africa—two great champions for building and growing ties of business and trade and investment between Africa and the United States—as well as the members of my administration and the Members of Congress who are here today.

All the Members of Congress, please stand up, if you're here so I know—can identify who you are. There's the man. All right. And I'm sure you're out there somewhere.

Look, this forum is about building connections. It's about closing deals. And above all, it's about the future, our shared future. We've known for a long time that Africa's success and prosperity is essential to ensuring a better future for all of us, not just for Africa.

I've been engaged in these issues going back to my days as a young man in the United States Senate. When I was on the Foreign Relations Committee, I was chairman of the African Affairs subcommittee and got to spend a lot of time in Africa. I've visited almost all of your countries. When I was Vice President, serving with President Obama, we hosted the first U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, including U.S.-Africa Business Forum.

We saw so clearly the enormous potential that we could harness if we did it together. And holding the first-of-its-kind summit in 2014 was a watershed moment to cement new kinds of partnerships between our nations, partnerships not to create political obligation, not—or foster dependence—its dependence, but to spur shared success—I emphasize "shared success"—and opportunity. Because when Africa succeeds, the United States succeeds; quite frankly, the whole world succeeds as well.

Now, 8 years later, the world has undergone a great many changes. We're still grappling with a deadly pandemic, facing down war and instability, addressing economic challenges of—with global impact, fighting—fighting—rising food prices, tackling the impacts of climate change.

And each of these crises has only heightened—heightened—the vital role African nations and peoples play to address the global challenges that drive our global progress. We can't solve any of these challenges without African leadership at the table—and I'm not trying to be nice; that's a fact—African ideas and innovation helping to shape the solutions and Africa population contributing to every step.

So the only question when I took office was not if we'd host another U.S.-African Leadership Summit, but when. My administration's engagement with Africa and the priority we place on these relationships began on day one. We've been working steadily with regional diplomacy and investments to demonstrate our commitment.

We harnessed decades—decades—of cooperation through PEPFAR and President's Malaria Initiative, and other partnerships on global health security to help save lives and combat COVID-19.

The United States delivered 231 million doses of vaccines to 49 countries across Africa, and worked together with you to get the vaccines into the arms to—in hard-to-reach communities. Critically, we invested in Africa's capacity to manufacture its own vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics so Africa—Africa—can meet its own needs and contribute to the global supply chain.

And even as we work to end COVID-19, we continue building stronger health systems and institutions, and accelerating efforts to achieve universal health coverage to make sure we're better prepared to tackle the health challenges, including the next pandemic. And there surely will be one.

We also advanced our commitment to strengthen food security, including expanding the Feed the Future program to partner with eight additional African countries. And I'll be speaking more tomorrow about this effort to both address the immediate food crisis and strengthen the food system in Africa for the long term.

We're taking on climate crisis, prioritizing just—not just energy transition in America, but in nations of all of Africa, and meeting the urgent needs to countries to adapt to the climate impacts that are already here. Just last month, I traveled to COP27 in Egypt where I announced $150 million in an effort to support adaptation efforts in Africa, a downpayment on my commitment to provide $3 billion annually to global adaptation efforts for 2024.

And in a year that has seen elections across Africa, we have worked together with the African Union to strengthen democracy and the core values that unite our people—all our people, especially young people—freedom, opportunity, transparency, good governance.

Now, you might be thinking this is a forum dedicated to deepening business ties and advancing two-way trade investments between Africa and the United States. "Why is Biden talking so much about all these other areas?"

Well, it's because Africa's economic transition depends on good government, healthy populations, and reliable and affordable energy. These things business seeks out when they're looking to invest. They attract new opportunities, and they launch new partnerships.

And the United States is committed to supporting every aspect—every aspect—of Africa's inclusive growth and creating the best possible environment for sustained commercial engagement between Africa companies and American companies.

The United States is all in on Africa's future. And the work we've done over the past 2 years, building on decades of vital investments made under previous American Presidents, has helped make possible the critical steps that I'm about to announce.

First, the United States is signing an historic memorandum of understanding with the new African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat. This MOU will unlock new opportunities of—for trade and investment between our countries and bring Africa and the United States even closer than ever. This is an enormous opportunity—an enormous opportunity—for Africa's future, and the United States wants to help make those opportunities real.

We're finally implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area. It will represent one of the largest free trade areas in the world, 1.3 billion people, and a continent-wide market totaling $3.4 trillion.

And with the new MOU, we're doing things correctly: enshrining protections for workers both across Africa and in the United States; looking out for small and medium-sized entrepreneurs and enterprises to make sure they have a fair shot to compete; lifting up opportunity for women-owned businesses, diaspora-owned businesses, and businesses owned by members of historically underserved communities; and supporting and investing in the continent's vibrant and growing urban economies. Together, we want to build a future of opportunity where no one—no one—is left behind.

Second, we're investing to facilitate greater regional trade within Africa, including by investing in infrastructure. Today the Millennium Challenge Corporation signed its first-ever regional transport compact with the governments of Benin and Niger. This compact will invest $500 million to build and maintain roads, put in place policies that reduce transportation costs, making it easier and faster for ships to ship goods from the Port of—excuse me, from the Port of Cotonou and to neighboring locked—landlocked countries.

Since the start of my administration, the MCC has announced new investments of nearly $1.2 billion in Africa. We expect the MCC to commit an additional $2.5 billion across Africa in just the next 3 years, supporting everything from agriculture to transportation to access to renewable energy.

In fact, the MCC just announced—excuse me, just announced discussions for partnerships with four African countries, our first—four compacts: Gambia, Togo to boost economic development; and a compact with Senegal to bolster regional connections; and a threshold program with Mauritania to help strengthen democratic governance and pursue policy reform to unlock economic growth.

These MCC investments are part of the work we're doing worldwide through the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment.

I proposed this initiative together with the rest of the G-7 to help fill the need for quality, high-standard infrastructure in Africa and in low-income and middle-income countries around the world. And at the G-7 meeting earlier this year, we announced our intention to collectively mobilize $600 billion in the next 5 years.

Today's announcements joint—join a portfolio of Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment projects already underway in Africa, including mobilizing $8 billion in public and private finance to help South Africa replace coal-fired power plants with renewable energy sources and develop cutting-edge energy solutions like clean hydrogen; a deal worth $2 billion to build solar energy projects in Angola; $600 million in high-speed communications cable that will connect Southeast Asia to Europe via Egypt and the Horn of Africa and help bring high-speed internet connectivity to countries all along the way.

The bottom line is simple: 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.

Third, we're continuing to support innovation and entrepreneurship across Africa, investing in the African—investing in Africa's people. Developing human capital, alongside physical infrastructure, is another core aspect of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment.

Today I'm announcing that the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation is investing nearly $370 million in new projects: $100 million to increase the reliable clean energy for millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa; $20 million to provide financing for fertilizer to help smallholder farmers, particularly women farmers, increase the yields of their crops; $10 million to support small and medium-sized enterprises that help bring clean drinking water to communities all across the continent. Just to name a few examples.

And we also know—and we also know—that one the most essential resources of any entrepreneur or small-business owner who wants to participate in the global economy is reliable and affordable access to the internet. So today I'm announcing a new initiative: the Digital Transformation with Africa. Working with Congress to invest $350 billion [million; White House correction] to facilitate more than almost half a billion dollars in financing to make sure people across Africa can participate in the digital economy.

That includes partnerships like a new collaboration between Microsoft and Viasat to bring in internet access to 5 million Africans, part of Microsoft's commitment to bring access to 100 million people across Africa by the end of the year 2025.

That means—that means—programs to train African entrepreneurs with a focus on women entrepreneurs to code and build skills that need to start their own businesses, to secure good-paying jobs and technology—with technology firms. And this will include partnerships between Africa, American companies—African and American companies to provide cybersecurity services to make sure Africa's digital environment is reliable and secure.

And that brings me to my final announcement. I said at the top of this forum about closing deals, and we've delivered. So just give me a few—let's give you a few highlights from the deal room, for the benefits they will deliver to Africa. Cisco Systems and Cybastion, a diaspora-owned small business, is jointly announcing $800 million in new contracts to protect African countries from cyber threats.

Visa is committing and putting more than $1 billion into Africa over the next 5 years to further expand the operations on the continent, including providing mobile payment services for more micro-, small, and medium-sized businesses across Africa. General Electric and Standard Bank will provide $80 million to improve health care services and provide access to cutting-edge health care equipment.

Altogether, the forum has spurred more than $15 billion in new deals, which will turn, lift up, and improve lives of people all across the continent. And that's the biggest deal of all. These are long-term investments that are going to deliver real benefits to people; create new, good-paying jobs, including here in the United States; and expand opportunities for all our countries for the years to come.

All of you—all of you—the deals you've signed, the investments we've made together, are concrete proof of the enduring commitment we're making to one another, government to government, business to business, people to people. And most important—and this is just the beginning—there's so much more we can do together and that we will do together.

So thank you for your participation today, for being part of another historic U.S.-African Leaders Summit. We've got a lot of ground to cover in the coming days, and I'm eager to listen to the priorities you have for the future of the partnership between our nations.

So thank you all. And may God protect our troops. Thank you very, very much. Appreciate it.

Thank you. Thank you very much. Thanks, Tony. Thank you. Thanks.

NOTE: The President spoke at 1:47 p.m. at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. In his remarks, he referred to Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John F. Kerry; and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken.

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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