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President Joe Biden has kicked off a summit with the continent’s leaders amid frustrations over the Ukraine crisis

US President Joe Biden is hosting a Washington summit with nearly 50 African nations, pledging increased investment and aid at a time when he’s reportedly struggling to keep the continent’s leaders on board with his campaign to punish and isolate Russia over the Ukraine conflict.

African nations are largely “ambivalent” about – and increasingly frustrated over – Biden’s efforts to rally support for Kiev and global condemnation of Russia, the Washington Post reported earlier this week. On Wednesday, Biden’s administration convened Washington’s first US-Africa Leaders Summit in eight years, promising $15 billion in new investments on the continent.

“The event comes as the White House is working, with mixed success so far, to coax support from African nations that have been hit especially hard by the consequences of the war in Ukraine, especially a wheat shortage and a disruption in the food supply but also rising fertilizer and fuel prices,” the Post said.

Another media outlet, The Hill, noted that African leaders are skeptical that the US is a reliable partner. “They don’t see us as trusted,” Cameron Hudson, an Africa expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Hill. “They see us as kind of unreliable, and this summit is the start of the effort to try to rewrite that narrative.”

Ebenezer Obadare, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, speculated that the reaction of African leaders to the Ukraine conflict may have “shaken” US policy makers, alarming them over China and Russia’s strong influence on the continent. “This seems to be an overture. This seems to be born out of a realization that things aren’t what they used to be.”

And if the United States is going to have to hold on to its allies in the region, it is going to have to do some smooching.

Biden began those efforts on Wednesday, trying to convince visiting leaders that Washington sees Africa’s prosperity as a top priority. He also spoke of the continent’s role in addressing “war and instability,” among other global crises. “We can’t solve any of these problems without African leadership at the table,” Biden said.

South Africa is among the countries that have snubbed anti-Russia sanctions. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who previously suggested that NATO instigated the Ukraine crisis, urged Biden in September not to “punish” African nations by pressuring them to cut ties with Moscow.


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