Harris to Meet Ghana's President 03/27 06:16
ACCRA, Ghana (AP) -- U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will meet on Monday
with Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo in a show of support for the West
African leader, who's facing rising discontent over inflation and fresh
concerns about regional security.
Harris is just beginning a weeklong trip to the continent that will also
take her to Tanzania and Zambia, part of a concerted effort to broaden U.S.
outreach at a time when China and Russia have entrenched interests of their own
Akufo-Addo oversaw one of the world's fast-growing economies before the
COVID-19 pandemic. However, the cost of food and other necessities has been
skyrocketing, and the country is facing a debt crisis as it struggles to make
In addition, sporadic fighting has increased in Ghana's north, which borders
the more tumultuous nation of Burkina Faso and the Sahel, a region where local
offshoots of al-Qaida and the Islamic State group have been operating.
"Ghana is experiencing a very tough moment," said Rama Yade, senior director
of the Atlantic Council's Africa Center.
Harris will announce $139 million in U.S. assistance for Ghana, according to
her office. Some of that money will require congressional approval, which could
prove difficult amid sharp partisan differences over the federal budget. The
Treasury Department also plans to dispatch an adviser to Accra to help manage
the country's burdensome debt.
Other programs are intended to reduce child labor, improve weather
forecasting, support local musicians and defend against disease outbreaks.
The United States has already sent troops to train militaries from Ghana and
other countries in the hopes of bolstering their defenses. However, other
countries have turned to the Russian mercenary force known as Wagner, which has
been on the front lines of Russia's war in Ukraine but also has a presence in
Wagner began operating in Mali, which ousted French troops based there, and
there are concerns that it will also deploy to Burkina Faso, where France also
ended its military presence. Ghana recently accused Burkina Faso's leaders,
which took power in a coup last year, of already turning to Wagner for help,
something Akufo-Addo said would be "unsettling."
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently visited Niger, which borders
Mali and Burkina Faso, to announce more assistance for the region.
"We've seen countries find themselves weaker, poorer, more insecure, less
independent as a result of the association with Wagner," he said.
Although China's influence in Africa has been a leading concern for U.S.
foreign policy, Russia's own attempts to make inroads has alarmed Washington as
well. Some countries have longstanding ties dating back to the Soviet era.
The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, has made multiple trips to the
continent in an effort to show that the West has failed to isolate Moscow for
its invasion of Ukraine.
"The Russians are continuing to make the first move in Africa, and the U.S.
is continuing to play catch-up," said Samuel Ramani, associate fellow at the
Royal United Services Institute, a London-based defense and security think tank.
"It's really unclear how Russia will really be able to expand its influence
in the long term," he added. "But in the short term, they're creating goodwill
Mucahid Durmaz, a senior analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, a global risk
intelligence company, said that Moscow's overall investments in Africa "are
very modest" compared with Washington's but adds that it's been able to
leverage anti-Western sentiment in some areas of the continent.
"The Ukraine war has boosted Africa's importance in international politics
and increased geopolitical jostling among global powers for the support of its
governments and nations," he said.
U.S. officials have steered clear of framing their approach in terms of
global rivalries, something that could swiftly sour Africans who are wary of
being caught in the middle.
"They remain cautious about becoming collateral damage to geopolitical
competition by repeating the same mistakes of the Cold War era," Durmaz said.