By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON(Reuters) - President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that the United States will bring together leaders from across the African continent for a major summit in December in Washington to discuss pressing challenges from food security to climate change.
"The summit will demonstrate the United States’ enduring commitment to Africa, and will underscore the importance of U.S.-Africa relations and increased cooperation on shared global priorities," Biden said in a statement.
The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, scheduled for Dec. 13-15, was announced simultaneously in virtual remarks by Vice President Kamala Harris to the U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Marrakech hosted by the Corporate Council on Africa and the kingdom of Morocco and attended by a U.S. delegation.
A senior administration official, discussing the U.S.-Africa summit plans on condition of anonymity, said about 50 African leaders are expected to join Biden for the Dec. 13-15 series of meetings.
It will come at the end of a year when Biden has engaged other regions of the world with trips to visit U.S. allies in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Biden has yet to visit Africa since becoming president, and the summit will be his most comprehensive look at the complexities of the continent.
A backbeat of Biden's diplomatic efforts thus far has been to promote Western democracies as a counterweight to China, but the official said the U.S.-Africa summit was not all about Beijing.
"We are not asking our African partners to choose," the official told Reuters. "We believe the United States offers a better model, but we are not asking our African partners to choose."
The U.S. Agency for International Development announced on Monday that it is providing nearly $1.3 billion in aid to the Horn of Africa nations of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia to help stave off mass starvation and deaths in the drought-stricken region.
Biden said the summit will work toward new economic engagement, promote democracy and human rights, advance peace and security, and address challenges such as food security and climate change as well as the pandemic.
The president believes that U.S. collaboration with leaders from African governments, civil society, the private sector and the African diaspora will help tackle some of the challenges, the official said.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Leslie Adler)