Vice President Kamala Harris visited Ghana on Monday. She praised the “democratic principles” of President Nana Akufo-Addo and pledged $139 million in assistance for the coming fiscal year, plus a share of various regional initiatives, including economic support and counter-terrorism programs.
The extensive package of U.S. assistance promised to Ghana included heavy funding for “conflict prevention and stabilization,” U.S Agency for International Development (USAID) money for economic development in poverty-stricken northern Ghana, debt restructuring, fellowships for young Ghanaians to find work with the Ministry of Finance, and increased funding to combat forced labor and human trafficking.
The Biden administration also promised to send economic advisers to Ghana, including a full-time resident adviser from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Technical Assistance (OTA) to oversee the implementation of economic reforms.
“Under your leadership, Ghana has been a beacon of democracy and a contributor to global peace and security,” Harris told President Akufo-Addo during their meeting at the Ghanaian presidential palace.
“We appreciate your leadership in response to recent democratic back-sliding in West Africa,” Harris said. “To help address the threats of violent extremism and instability, today I am pleased to announce $100 million in support of Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire and Togo.”
Akufo-Addo said he appreciated the assistance to get his country’s economy “back on track” after the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic and hoped American investors would grow more interested in Ghana.
The Ghanaian president expressed support for regional anti-terrorism efforts, denouncing terrorism as a “poison” spreading through Africa, especially the turbulent Sahel region along Ghana’s northern border. He was also apprehensive about reports that Russia’s notorious mercenary Wagner Group was active in the region.
“It raises the very real possibility that once again our continent is going to become the playground for a great power conflict,” he said.
In December, Ghana’s ambassador to neighboring Burkina Faso was summoned to hear complaints after Akufo-Addo and other Ghanaian officials accused the ruling junta of negotiating with Wagner. Russian mercenaries have been on the ground in Mali since that country ended its counter-terrorism cooperation with France, and the Russian troops have been accused of severe human rights abuses.
Wagner Group: Burkina Faso anger over Russian mercenary link https://t.co/9kPLdNjL4i
— Harun Maruf (@HarunMaruf) December 17, 2022
President Joe Biden told African leaders gathered for a meeting in Washington in December that the U.S. is “committed to supporting every aspect of Africa’s growth,” including $55 billion in investments over the next five years, plus $15 billion in private commitments.
“The United States is all in on Africa and all in with Africa,” Biden said in December.
Skeptical observers doubted the sudden geyser of investment and financial aid for Africa would be enough to compete with China’s greatly increased spending on the continent over the past few years, or Russia’s efforts to spread its influence through the Wagner Group. In 2019, for example, China pledged $2 billion in infrastructure spending in Ghana in exchange for access to its bauxite reserves.
Among other obstacles, Chinese and Russian help comes with no ethical strings attached, while the Biden administration was criticized for inviting some leaders with poor human rights records.
Harris was asked about gay rights at a press conference in Ghana because its legislature is currently debating what activists denounce as an extreme anti-LGBTQ bill. Among other provisions, the bill would punish people for merely identifying themselves as gay with up to five years in prison.
Harris responded that she “raised the issue” in her meetings with Ghanaian officials and felt strongly about gay rights herself, while Akufo-Addo touted improvements made to the legislation during the nearly two years it has been debated.
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