Skip to content

Remarks by Vice President Harris at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit African and Diaspora Young Leaders Forum

  • Politics

National Museum of African American History and Culture
Washington, D.C.

1:31 P.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon.  Please have a seat.  Good afternoon.  

To Deputy Secretary Adeyemo, thank you for all you do.  I will tell you what many of you probably know about him: From the implementation of the American Rescue Plan and the Inflation Reduction Act, to your sights, Wally, on what is important about strengthening economic relationships in Africa and around the world, you have been an extraordinary leader.

And so, to our Deputy Secretary of Treasury, let us please applause — (applause) — his great role of leadership.

President Akufo-Addo, it is wonderful to see you back in Washington again.  I thank you for your work to strengthen the ties between our nations and our people.

And to my dear friend, Cory Booker — Senator Cory Booker — thank you for always being a voice in the United States Senate on the importance of the U.S.-Africa relationship.  

And to the hundreds of young leaders from Africa and around the United States who are with us today: Welcome, and thank you for your leadership and participation. 

So, it is fitting that we gather here today in this magnificent and historic museum.  The shape of this building is inspired by Yoruba art from West Africa.  And the metal latticework that you see outside that surrounds the building is inspired by the intricate ironwork crafted by enslaved American — in and throughout — in particular, the South, but African Americans who were enslaved in the United States.

The building and many of the collections it holds are intended as a powerful reminder of the brutality of slavery and of the intertwined history between Africa and America, including our ongoing connections.
     
It is a reminder of the strength and resilience of the African American people and the contributions of African Americans to our country. 

Africa is the oldest inhabited continent in the world, and it is home to the youngest population in the world. 

So, Africa cannot help but be in the future business.  I strongly believe that the creativity and ingenuity of Africa’s  young leaders will help us shape the future of the world, and that their ideas — your ideas — and innovations and initiatives will benefit the entire world. 

The Biden-Harris administration intends to be right there alongside you, these young leaders, knowing it is the spark and determination of young people that will drive and move us forward. 

And we are particularly excited about this future as we have the honor to host the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit
this week.

In the coming days, as well as the months and years ahead, our administration will invest our time and our energy to fortify partnerships across the continent — partnerships that, importantly, are grounded in candor, openness, inclusiveness, shared interests, and mutual benefits. 

And overall, our administration will be guided not by what we can do for Africa but what we can do with Africa.  (Applause.) 

In recent decades, the United States and African countries have worked together to spur economic growth and expand trade capacity across the continent. 

We have worked together to prevent more than 1 billion cases of malaria and to help more than 22 million people living with HIV/AIDS. 

Since the beginning of our administration, the United States has invested and plans to provide more than $19 billion for public health and to combat COVID-19, $3.3 billion in medium- and long-term agriculture and food security investments, $10 billion in emergency food security programming, and $4 billion in development.

We are focused on working with the countries of Africa to address current challenges, as well as to promote long-term growth and innovation. 

Together, as we continue to advance our partnership in health, in development, and good governance, we are also addressing the need for climate resilience and clean energy, food security, access to finance, and digital technology. 

In the past two years, we have made important progress together.  And we must and we will do more. 

Which brings me back, then, to Africa’s young leaders.  Just consider, 60 percent of the population of Africa is under the age of 25. That is nearly 850 million young people on the continent.  And by 2050, that figure will grow to 1.2 billion people — 1.2 billion young people. 

This represents an enormous potential for the world in terms of economic growth and for social and political progress. 

And so within the next two years, the Biden-Harris administration would have invested more than $1 billion in education and youth programming in Africa, which will allow us to further our partnership with African academic institutions and the private sector on education and research in science, technology, engineering, and math.  And it will allow us to expand our signature program for African youth, the Young African Leaders Initiative, also known at YALI.

As the YALI alumni in the audience know, each year, fellows travel to colleges and universities in the United States for six weeks to study.  They study business, civic engagement, or public management. 

We also developed YALI Regional Leadership Centers to provide a similar experience at higher education institutions in Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, and South Africa.  Through these experiences, these leaders join a continent-wide network of young leaders.

Currently, more than 640,000 young Africans participate in the YALI network.  (Applause.)  In fact, today — yes — and today, I actually met with some of the distinguished alumni, including a young woman who has worked to provide access to clean water for rural communities in Benin.  I have met with Cecilia from Zambia, who is a social work student, and created projects that provide leadership training to more than 1,000 young people a week.  And Ian, who created an organization in Tanzania that uses animation, comics, and radio stories to encourage young people to participate in social change. 

And to build on these successes, it is now my great pleasure to launch the next phase of YALI: a new investment of $100 million with which — (applause) — with which we will expand networking for alumni and connect them with social impact and business investors. 

And in so doing, we will continue to foster the ingenuity and creativity of young African leaders.  

These young leaders, the majority of whom were born in the 21st century, are coming of age on a continent with a vibrant spirit of entrepreneurship.  From the tech hubs of Cairo and Nairobi, to the incubators of Accra and Cape Town, African innovation benefits the entire world. 

Think of the Kenyan innovators who created a local mobile payment system that transformed global payment systems; or the Ethiopian start-up that uses artificial intelligence to forecast changing trends in agricultural production and the climate crisis, and now is being used to battle food insecurity around the globe; or the Nigerian fintech company that created a digital store at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which allows small businesses around the world to sell their products online. 

It is in the spirit of all of that that, this week, the United States Export-Import Bank is entering into a new memoranda of understanding with entities in Sub-Saharan Africa whereby we will provide more than $1 billion to finance American commercial investment in Africa. 

This, we know and believe, will create jobs and opportunities in various sectors, and in particular, the renewable energy sector, in agriculture, water and sanitation, and infrastructure. 

In addition, we will launch The African Women’s Trade and Investment Initiative, a new program which will help women across Africa participate in e-commerce, and access financing and export markets.  (Applause.)  And that is because we all here know, when you lift up the economic status of women, you lift up the economic status of their children, of their families, and all of society benefits.

And so we will also then re-launch the African Women Entrepreneurship Program to provide micro-financing to women to support their ambitions and their aspirations.  (Applause.)

So, for example, Minata Koné, who owns a cashew processing factory in Burkina Faso, is an alumna of this program.  She secured a contract as a supplier for Costco.  And when she expanded her factory, she hired more women.  

She then partnered with Costco to invest in training cashew producers in other villages to help them reach the international marketplace. 

Another alumna of this program: Israella of Ghana.  When she graduated from college, she couldn’t find a job.  So she went into her savings and started to experiment with cosmetics in her kitchen. 

She ultimately created a line of natural hair and body care products.  And she now exports her products to Asia, Europe, and the United States.  Her products are actually sold on Etsy and Amazon, if you’re looking for them.  (Laughter.)  And she continues to provide vocational training to women in rural communities.

Because we know that when we invest in populations that have the incredible capacity of these young leaders, they also take it as part of their personal responsibility to build a legacy so others can follow. 

And with determination and access to finance, ingenuity knows no bounds.  So to invest in the future, we must invest in our young people.  

And to be most effective, we must strengthen a broad coalition between government and community leaders, philanthropic leaders, business leaders, and young leaders, and, of course, with the African diaspora so richly represented in this room. 

Today, President Biden will sign an executive order to create the President’s Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement in the United States.  (Applause.)

This council will provide advice and recommendations to the President to strengthen the ties between the people of Africa and the people of America.

By working together, we can unlock growth and opportunity that far exceeds what any of us can achieve on our own.  But we must invest in this coalition.

 So let us work together to foster the spark of creativity and ingenuity in Africa’s young leaders. 

Throughout history, in moments of uncertainty and change, the world has often turned to young people to help lead the way forward.  Now is no different. 

So to Africa’s young leaders, I say: I am an optimist about what lies ahead for Africa and, by extension, for the world because of you — because of your energy, your ambition, and your ability to transform seemingly intractable problems into opportunities.  Simply put: your ability to see what can be, unburdened by what has been.

I thank you all.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

END                1:46 P.M. EST 

Source: White House