Kamala Harris photo

The Vice President's News Conference with President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana in Accra, Ghana

March 27, 2023

PRESIDENT AKUFO-ADDO: Thank you. And good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen of the media.

I have just concluded a brief but very successful meeting with the Vice President of the United States of America, the Honorable Kamala Harris, and with mem- -- with members of our respective delegation. And I'm here to tell you of its outcome.

I want to welcome, once again, Vice President Harris and members of her delegation to Ghana. As we say in Ghana, Akwaaba. You are amongst the people who pride themselves on their sense of hospitality, and I hope that by the end of your visit you will agree with this claim.

Ladies and gentlemen, the purpose of this visit by the American Vice President is to reaffirm the ties of cooperation and the bonds of friendship that our two countries attach to our relations with each other.

Vice President Harris and I had the opportunity of meeting in the White House in 2021 and subsequently, where we both pledged our commitment to exploring further areas of interest for the mutual benefit of our two countries. This visit reinforces our commitment to engage each other further to this end.

Our two countries share similar aspirations and values. We're both committed to democratic governance with its respect for human rights, the rule of law, and the principles of democratic accountability. We're member states of the United Nations with a mutual attachment to its values and principles. We have collaborated effectively on several matters over the years.

And the major outcome of this afternoon's meeting was a reaffirmation of our commitment to collaborate further and provide mutual support at both multilateral and bilateral levels.

The Vice President and I discussed at length how to boost further political and economic relations, cultural and people-to-people exchanges, as well as our cooperation at the multinational level.

Our deliberations also centered on driving investment opportunities, domestic and foreign, into our two countries and the need for enhanced cooperation and partnership in our development efforts.

Towards the realization of the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, we touched on the need to promote a better world and address global issues relating to the 17 goals.

I also used the occasion of my talks with the Vice President to express the appreciation of the Ghanaian people and their government to the government and people of the United States for the support we have received since the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries.

I've made it known to the Vice President that Ghana is endowed with abundant natural resources, which my government is seeking to use as the basis to transform its economy from its current reliance on the export of raw materials into a value-adding one, with a vision of taking Ghana out of dependence on aid to a self-reliant economy beyond aid. And that is a Ghana beyond aid.

I'm pleased to state that Vice President Harris pledged America's support for this transformative agenda. It is this transformation that will give us the best opportunity to derive maximum benefit from our abundant natural resources, enable us to create a firmer foundation for meaningful long-term economic and commercial relations with the United States of America.

In conclusion, I'm happy to state that this afternoon's meeting has further boosted the steadfast cooperation between us. And Ghana will continue to collaborate with the United States of America at all levels, particularly towards the peaceful resolution of conflicts and in the search for global peace and security to promote sustainable development around the world.

I thank you for your attention. (Applause.)

VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Thank you, President Akufo-Addo. It is wonderful to be in Ghana and to be, again, with you.

As you have mentioned, I was honored to host you at the White House in 2021 and then again to meet with you during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit last December, and then to be here today to accept the invitation you so graciously offered -- that I would visit your beautiful country. So thank you for the warm welcome.

President Biden and I have made clear that the United States is strengthening our partnerships across the continent of Africa. And we are guided not by what we can do for Africa, but what we can do with Africa and our African partners on this continent.

African nations, such as Ghana, play a critical role in a number of global issues, whether it be the issue of food security, the climate crisis, or resilient supply chains.

African voices, including that of Ghana, are critical to global peace and security, including the defense of the United Nations Charter.

And African ingenuity and innovation, I am certain, will shape the future of the world.

As I begin this weeklong visit across the continent, it is wonderful to start here in Ghana.

Mr. President, under your leadership, Ghana has been a beacon of democracy and a contributor to global peace and security. Your leadership, in particular, and personal engagement has strengthened the ties between the diaspora and the continent of Africa. And President Joe Biden and I are grateful to have you as a partner.

Our countries share a long history. Our people share a long history. As you have mentioned and we've discussed: In 1957, when Ghana gained independence, your nation inspired millions of Americans and millions more around the world.

Martin Luther King, Jr. and many other Americans were here to celebrate that occasion and to witness the dawn of a new era. And since then, the promise of Ghana continues to draw us near. Hundreds of thousands of Black Americans came here four years ago to participate in the Year of the Return, and more return every year. They have come here as a reminder of the history of slavery. They have come to honor their lineage and to understand their ancestry.

And I thank you, Mr. President, as we have discussed, for your personal leadership in prioritizing engagement with the African diaspora. Our people-to-people ties are a source of strength, and the Biden-Harris administration is committed to these ties.

As you have mentioned, we have had today, this afternoon, a wide-ranging discussion. We have discussed a number of important topics, including the importance of concepts and priorities such as freedom and liberty, which are, to be sure, at the core of who we are as Americans and who Ghanaians are.

Mr. President, you put it well during the State of the Nation a few weeks ago -- and I'm going to quote you -- when you said, "It is important we never forget that democracy is not a static achievement, but a promise that needs continuous nurturing."

I agree. I often, in fact, say that there is a duality when it comes to democracies, in that they are both strength and -- an exhibition of strength -- and they are fragile.

We appreciate your leadership in response to recent democratic backsliding in West Africa and standing up for democratic principles around the world.

We also recognize Ghana's significant contributions in the Sahel, and I thank you for your leadership there.

To help address the threats of violent extremism and instability, today I am pleased to announce $100 million in support of Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire, and Togo.

Last week, President Joe Biden announced a strategic plan for coastal West Africa as part of the United States Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability.

Today funding and the announcement that I've just made will help implement that plan and will address security, governance, and development issues in the region.

With regard specifically to the economy, I recognize the challenges Ghanaians are facing, especially in the wake of a global pandemic and the disruptions caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

We welcome Ghana's commitment to reforming its economy to deliver sustainable and inclusive growth. We support Ghana's engagement with the IMF and will continue to push for all bilateral creditors to provide meaningful debt reduction for countries that need it, including Ghana.

We must work together as an international community to ease the debt burden that is facing far too many countries. It is critical to do so to build long-term economic growth and prosperity and to increase U.S. investment -- a key priority for our administration and, in particular, private-sector investment.

Our partnership with Ghana is already strong. And today, Mr. President, I believe we strengthen it even more.

I thank you for your gracious hosting of this important conversation and all of the work we will do going forward. Thank you. (Applause.)


MR. AHMED: Thank you, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic, and Vice President Kamala Harris of the United States.

We will now progress to the Q&A segment. And to help us moderate that session, we have a Ms. Kirsten Allen, the Press Secretary to the Vice President, and Jefferson Sackey, Deputy Director of Communications. Please.

MR. SACKEY: Thank you very much, Director of State Protocol.

Mr. President, Madam Vice President, senior government officials of both Ghana and the United States, members of the media, we're going to ensure that this press briefing is as brief as possible.

The questions are going to be asked -- a maximum of four questions: two from the Ghanaian side and two from the U.S. side.

And so, if anybody has any question to ask, I think it's important to go straight to the microphone. Two microphones, as you know, been programmed on the left and on the right.


Q: Hello. Excellencies, good afternoon. My name is Maxwell Ofori. And, Madam Vice President, welcome to Ghana.


Q: In your address --

PRESIDENT AKUFO-ADDO: And you work for whom?

Q: I write for the Chronicle newspaper.

In your address, you touched on the economic recovery Ghana is going through, which is not alien to Ghana only. My question is: How have COVID-19 and Russia's invasion of Ukraine affected the U.S. economy in any way? And what lessons can smaller economies, such as Ghana, draw from the recovery efforts of the developed countries such as the U.S.? Thank you.

VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Thank you for that question. Well, there's no question that there has been a global impact, and the United States has not been immune, as a result of the pandemic -- the global pandemic -- and Russia's unprovoked war and aggression in Ukraine.

When we all think of the -- in particular, the days during the height of the pandemic -- what that meant not only in terms of the loss of life and normalcy, the loss of significant periods of education for our children, but also what that resulted in in terms of shutting down, almost completely, integral supply chains, and how that then influenced not only the ability of families to get and satisfy their basic needs, but it shut down industries and it really did bring our economy in the United States and globally significant damage. But we are recovering from that.

In terms of the -- the -- Russia's war -- again, unprovoked -- in Ukraine, there have been a number of impacts globally and to the United States included. In particular, as it relates to the prevalence of our ability to have access to certain foods and grain, in particular, globally has been a big issue.

So we have seen a spike in the cost of food, for example, and it is something that we are addressing.

We saw inflated prices in terms of gas, which -- which exacted a pretty significant toll on American families.

We are now recovering because of some of the measures that our administration has taken to -- to bring down the cost to American families. But going forward, let's recognize that there are a number of things on the issue of the economy as a whole that we must do, putting aside the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, even before the two became an issue for our nations.

And a lot of that work is the work that I'm here to do on the continent, which is to look at how we can -- as nations who are friends, who work together, who operate on the basis of shared principles -- what we can do to engage in strengthening not only our security, but our prosperity.

A lot of the focus of my trip on the continent during these next few days will be on increasing the relationship in particular from U.S. private sector for investment on the continent of Africa, knowing that it will generate prosperity to the benefit not only of the people on this continent, but the people in my country as well.

MS. ALLEN: Eugene Daniels.

Q: Good afternoon. Eugene Daniels with Politico in the United States. The Vice President is the fifth Biden administration official -- top official -- to come to Af- -- the continent of Africa over the last three months. Every single one of them have said it is not only to compete with China in this country.

Madam Vice President, what guarantee can you make to the residents of this nation that you're visiting that you're more committed to this fu- -- their future than China? What does it say about the U.S. relationships on this continent that so many nations have been and continue to turn to China?

And if I may, Mr. President, what has the Vice President said to you today that assures you the purpose of this trip is genuinely about the future of Africa and Ghana, and not about competing with China?

Thank you.

VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Thank you for that question. I look forward to answering it. (Laughter.)

The President and I had a conversation on this very topic, but the conversation was not about China as much as it is about the enduring and important direct relationship that the United States has with Ghana and with African nations.

I will tell you that we are very clear -- and I will speak for myself and on behalf of the Biden-Harris administration -- that the relationship between the United States and this continent and African leaders is an important one. There's a historical basis for the relationship, not to mention as we look forward, as all governments should, and recognize the unachieved -- as of yet -- opportunities that exist going forward.

The median age on the continent of Africa is 19. Think about what that means in terms of potential. Think about the fact that, by 2050, one in four people occupying a place on Mother Earth will be on this continent, and what that means.

The trip that I have taken to come here, being here, is about recognizing the incredible opportunity with a sense of optimism about what we do now and how it will impact the world going forward.

So, this trip and this relationship, yes, we are concerned with security, we are concerned with what is happening on the globe as a whole. We are clear-eyed about that. But this trip is motivated by the importance of the direct relationship between the United States and Ghana and, as I travel the continent, those countries as well.

PRESIDENT AKUFO-ADDO: Is it Mr. Daniels? Is that the name? Mr. Daniels. Thank you for the question.

There may be an obsession in America about the Chinese activities on the continent, but there's no such obsession here. China is one of the many countries with whom Ghana is engaged in the world. Your country is one of them. Virtually all the countries of the world are friends of Ghana, and we have relations in varying degrees of intensity with all of them.

Our relationship with America is a relationship that has been forged over several decades, right from the time of independence up till now. Vice President Harris referred to the fact that Dr. King was here in 1957, forging the link between the civil rights movement in Africa and the African liberation struggle, which Ghana was a symbol of.

So, we've had a direct relationship in the '90s and the millennium years. Three successive American presidents visited us. In 1998, President Clinton was here. In 2008, President Bush came. And then, President Obama came in 2009. In fact, the only president who broke the chain was President Trump. We're hoping that President Biden will also be here to restore that trajectory.

I'm saying this to show you that the relationship between America and us -- and Ghana -- is a relationship which has its own dynamic. And it's not to do with any other country; it has to do with the relationship between two countries who are democracies, who do a lot of work together at the global level, with multilateral, as well as at the bilateral level. It is not a relationship that has to be a reflection, at least from our point of view, of any other consideration.

So -- and Pre- -- Vice President Harris has made that so very clear to me, that the relationships that we have established between Ghana and America -- strong relationships -- are those that she has come here to renew and forge even stronger. And I have absolutely no reason to doubt her. The history is there to confirm what she has been saying.

MR. SACKEY: Okay, two more questions to go. Yes, Nana Esi. Your full name and the network you report for.

Q: Thank you very much. My name is Nana Esi Boateng,

Jubilee House reporter for Oman FM.

Madam Vice President, my question: One of the issues in recent time has to do with the effect of climate change. Now, countries great and small are feeling the bent of its impact as we speak. Africa is said to be the least contributor to this phenomenon, and that is less than 4 percent of global volumes of carbon emissions.

Now, the demand is now for Africa to go green and literally abandon the exploitation of the abundant natural resources which the continent has been blessed with, this -- the resources which the continent needs to finance her development.

My question: Do you believe this call is fair? And also, are you disappointed by the failure of wealthy nations of the world to honor their commitment of making available $100 billion annually to the poorer countries of this world to assist them in the fight against climate change? Thank you.

VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Thank you. Thank you for that question.

So, I'll start with this: I don't think that anyone would deny that the globe is facing a climate crisis. And that is a fact. The last time I saw Mr. President, you -- we were actually -- the last time we were on the same continent was when you and I were both at the Munich Security Conference.

And when I was on stage, a topic came up, at which point I raised exactly the point of your question, which is that there are certain nations that have been the biggest contributors to admissions -- to emissions, and there are other nations who have paid the biggest price, and that we, as global leaders, must recognize the disparity that exists there and address those disparities.

So, when I think about the United States' role, to that end, part of the work that our administration has been doing is addressing what we must do as an imperative to reduce our global emissions.

We, during our administration -- the Biden-Harris administration -- take great pride in accomplishing a significant step toward that end, where we have dedicated $370 billion to the climate crisis, with a great deal of that directed at what we can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. So that is an important step as we go forward.

But it is critically important that, as global leaders, we all speak truth about the disparities that exist in terms of cause and effect and that we address those disparities.

And part of my trip here is actually to also recognize the opportunities, then, that exist in this transition to what we call a "clean energy economy," a green economy. And the opportunities that exist for American private interest and the American government to also share in Africa's leadership on this in terms of helping to contribute the resources to what are very innovative practices that are occurring here on the continent, some of which I will be highlighting during this trip.

There is no question -- to the last point that you raised -- that work needs to be done in terms of a commitment that was previously made. My administration has made a request of -- I believe it's $11 billion -- for Congress to make a step toward that previous commitment, and we are waiting for Congress to do its work.

Thank you.

MS. ALLEN: Last question, Zolan Kanno-Youngs.

Q: Thank you both for taking the time. Zolan Kanno-Youngs from the New York Times.

Madam Vice President, you have made clear that the message of this trip is centered on a collaborative future. At the same time, the Biden administration committed to calling out any foreign government that advanced anti-gay legislation or violates human rights.

All three of the countries that you are visiting on this trip have advanced anti-gay -- advanced or proposed anti-gay legislation. Ghana has proposed a bill that would imprison those that engage in same-sex intercourse. Gay sex remains a crime in Tanzania. And same-sex relationships are outla- -- outlawed in Zambia.

What have you said to the President and plan to say to other leaders on this trip about this crackdown on human rights?

And for the President as well: You've talked about the proliferation of terrorist groups across the region, as well as pirate activities along the Western African coast. What does the presence of -- what does the presence of the Wagner Group say about past U.S. support when it comes to security? What more do you need from the United States to combat this threat? And also, can you confirm that al Qaeda has a presence currently in Ghana? Thank you.

VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: I'll start. I have raised this issue, and let me be clear about where we stand. First of all, for the American press who are here, you know that a great deal of work in my career has been to address human rights issues, equality issues across the board, including as it relates to the LGBT community. And I feel very strongly about the importance of supporting the freedom and supporting and fighting for equality among all people, and that all people be treated equally.

I will also say that this is an issue that we consider and I consider to be a human rights issue, and that will not change.

PRESIDENT AKUFO-ADDO: Yes, what's the name?

Q: Sorry, Zolan Kanno-Youngs of the New York Times.


Q: Zolan Kanno-Youngs.

PRESIDENT AKUFO-ADDO: Mr. Youngs, so thank you for the question.

First of all, we don't have any such legislation here in Ghana. A bill has been proposed through the Parliament of Ghana, which has all kinds of ramifications, which is now being considered by the Parliament. It hasn't been passed. So the statement that there is legislation in Ghana to that effect is not accurate. No legislation.

Q: Do you support that bill that's (inaudible)?

PRESIDENT AKUFO-ADDO: The bill is going through the Parliament. It's going through the Parliament. The attorney general has found it necessary to speak to the committee about it, regarding the constitutionality otherwise of several of its provisions. And the Parliament is dealing with it.

At the end of the process, I will come in. But in the -- in the meantime, the Parliament is dealing with it. And I have no doubt that the Parliament of Ghana will show, as it's done in the past, one -- first of all, its sensitivity to human rights issues, as well as to the feelings of our population, and will come out with a responsible response to the -- to the proposed.

The legislation was a legislation that has been provided -- provided as a private member's bill. This is not an official legislation of the government. But it is one that has been -- being mooted by a handful of private members.

So we will see what the final outcome of it, but I'm -- my understanding from the recent discussion I had with the chairman of the committee: The substantial elements of the bill that have already been modified as a result of the intervention of the attorney general.

We will see what the final outcome will be. And that is at the stage at which I will also have the opportunity to (inaudible).

As far as the presence of Wagner's conce- -- we are concerned about it. We made it clear our concerns. Because, first of all, it -- it raises the very real possibility, which is one that we need, all of us in the -- on the region and the continent -- to be aware about that, once again, our continent is going to become the playground for great power conflict. Because one group of people come in, whether they are an official or an unofficial group, all of us know the realities of what's going on. It's not very difficult for another group of people to say, "There, there, we will come." And before you know it, the -- the issues that are of concern to us -- keeping our country and continent free of great power rivalry -- will be a reality with us. So that's our major preoccupation.

And on -- as --

Q: And (inaudible). (Off-mic.) And al Qaeda (inaudible).

PRESIDENT AKUFO-ADDO: Yes. And -- but in any event, also, we want to be in a position to resolve our own security problems ourselves as much as possible without the intervention of foreign troops.

The presence of al Qaeda in Ghana, I don't know. I -- formally, we don't have any information to that effect.

I -- it may well be that there are cells, et cetera, already in the country, but those are matters that the security agencies are very much on top of. And we are hoping that there will be no al Qaeda presence in Ghana. That has to be the wish of anybody who is a friend of this country and who wishes the Ghanaian people well.

Thank you.

MR. SACKEY: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Madam Vice President. I hope that we've been able to keep this one as brief as possible.

PRESIDENT AKUFO-ADDO: You've done well. (Laughs.)

MR. SACKEY: Yes, Mr. President.

And, Madam Vice President, thank you for coming to our country.


MR. SACKEY: And we look forward to the many engagements that you're going to have here, especially your public lecture tomorrow at the Freedom Monuments. We really welcome you.

Members of the media, thank you.

Kamala Harris, The Vice President's News Conference with President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana in Accra, Ghana Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/360244

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