By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
During the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the White House and African leaders have stressed the importance of Africa’s voices at two distinctive levels – the first at the United Nations Security Council and G-20, and second within the U.S.-African institutional structures. For the United States, engaging African professionals is one surest way working towards an integrated relations.
U.S. President Joe Biden has already signed an executive order for the creation of African Diaspora Secretariat as part of the White House administration. The African Union representative office in Washington signals the fact that, in terms of monitoring and coordinating, the continental body is getting down to practical business in working with the diaspora, and in uplifting relations between United States and Africa.
According to World Bank Statistics, remittance inflows to Sub-Saharan Africa soared 14.1 percent to $49 billion in 2021 following an 8.1 percent decline in the previous year due coronavirus pandemic. Beyond remittances, Africa stands to benefit largely from the input of its diaspora considered as progressive in the United States.
Over the years, African leaders have been engaging with their diaspora, especially those excelling in sports, academia, business, science, technology, engineering and other significant sectors that the continent needs to optimize its diverse potentials and to meet development priorities. These are bridges leveraging the United States and Africa.
The African diaspora ranks among the most educated immigrant group and makes invaluable contributions in various sectors including business, medicine, healthcare, engineering, transportation and many more. It is an important factor strengthening the connectivity between the regions, which ultimately supports U.S.-Africa relations in this emerging multipolar world.
Welcoming African entrepreneurs, Africa-American and African leaders for a reception, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was guided by the principle of close partnership with Africa.
“We can’t solve any of the really big challenges we face if we don’t work together. So it’s about what we can do with African nations and its people,” Blinken said. “We welcome all other members of the international community, including the United States, to join us in the global efforts to help Africa.”
In featuring prominently integrative aspects and cultural familiarity within the African diaspora, New York Mayor Eric Adams said that the success of African Americans showed the need for Africans to “walk differently.”
“We are thrilled with the outcome of this historic summit gathering,” said Nima Elmi, CEO and Co-Founder of Africa House. “Not only did it benefit the United States and African diplomatic relationships, but leaders will also leave with tangible business and economic outputs.”
Africa House will hold various events throughout the year, with the next one scheduled to take place in Davos, Switzerland next month as part of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting. Africa House is a non-profit project supported by a team of experts that bring together a combined 30+ years of experience on the continent and leading African initiatives.
The Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs, and Secretariat of the Africa Diaspora, the Africa House and the Young African Leaders Initiative are efforts directed at promoting multifaceted relations with Africa. Now there is the President’s Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement in the United States working on deepening some aspects of relations with the region.
Ambassador Johnnie Carson, a Senior Advisor at the Institute’s Africa Center, has been appointed as Special Representative for U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit implementation. Ultimately, for coordinating and monitoring questions relating to the entire post-Summit implementation processes including projects and programmes.
He will be working closely with government ministries and departments, institutions and organizations both in the United States and Africa. He will liaise with the State’s Bureau of African Affairs and newly created Secretariat of the Africa Diaspora at the Presidency, and non-government organizations.
Ambassador Carson has tremendous organizational skills and his professional reputation well-known both in the United States and in Africa. His 37-year career in the foreign service includes ambassadorships to the Republics of Kenya, Zimbabwe and Uganda. Among other posts, he has also served as Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs, National Intelligence Officer for Africa at the National Intelligence Council, and as the Senior Vice-President of the National Defense University in Washington.
His appointment was based on the fact that his passion, diplomatic know-how, well-established network of leaders and civil society members and the unwavering dedication are results-oriented as shown in the preparation of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit held December in Washington.
“There is not a better signal or a better person, in terms of the fact that we are going to have a real and genuine follow-up, than the fact that Johnnie Carson is going to be riding herd over day in, day out. And if he puts his mind to something, he will get it done,” U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said about him at a press conference during the summit.
In response to the appointment, Ambassador Carson said, “I am humbled to serve in this new role. The coming months will be a critical time to cement the progress made at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit to ensure the United States and Africa’s relationships are bolstered and expanded as we partner ahead on the African Union’s Agenda 2063.”
Beyond the Biden Administration, beginning 2023 the U.S. (both public and private sector) have year-round comprehensive programmes, concrete initiatives and various investment projects to work on and that appeal to the hearts and minds of African leaders and their people. The White House looks to use the existing opportunities to deepen as many partnerships as possible and to ultimately narrow the gaping trust gap with Africa.