WASHINGTON (AP) — Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will travel in January to South Africa, Zambia, and Senegal, her office announced Friday, in what will be the first of a string of Biden administration official visits to sub-Saharan Africa next year.
The world’s second-largest continent is crucial to the global economy due to its rapidly growing population and significant natural resources. China’s deepening economic entrenchment in African nations, surpassing the U.S. in trade with Africa to become one of the world’s largest creditors, is also a motivator for the U.S. to deepen ties with African nations.
President Joe Biden on Thursday announced during a U.S. summit with African leaders that he plans to make a trip to the region next year, as do Vice President Kamala Harris, first lady Jill Biden and a number of Cabinet secretaries.
Yellen, who will visit Africa from Jan. 17-28, has spoken at length publicly about China’s financing practices on the continent, calling them “ economic practices that have disadvantaged all of us.”
Zambia, for instance, is renegotiating its nearly $6 billion debt with China, its biggest creditor. During a closed-door meeting with Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema at the Africa Leaders Summit on Thursday, Yellen said they discussed “the need to address debt sustainability and the imperative to conclude a debt treatment for Zambia.”
Treasury said Yellen will also discuss the spillover effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Africa’s food supply. Other topics will include how the U.S. is working with African leaders to promote an energy transition that factors in the impacts of climate change in Africa and how to prepare for future pandemics through the Pandemic Fund announced in June.
At the summit this week, Biden announced plans to spend $2 billion to help bolster food security on the continent.