Top U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and defense chief Lloyd Austin, joined several key leaders from Africa to discuss peace, security and governance issues at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Tuesday.
The Biden administration's three-day gathering is bringing in leaders from 49 African nations and the African Union for high-level talks.
During the discussion, Somalia's president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, spoke about how the terrorist group, al-Shabaab, controlled large portions of Somalia's rural areas.
"Shabaab, or terrorists anywhere they are, cannot be defeated militarily only," he said.
African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said the U.S. is providing bilateral support to a number of African countries, including Niger, Mozambique, Somalia and Chad. But he said that African armies are still underequipped.
"No one is listening to the cries of Africa when it comes to the extension of this scourge," he said.
The administration is hosting leaders and senior officials this week in a not-so-subtle pitch to compete with China on the continent. The aim is to convince its guests that the U.S. offers a better option to African partners.
"We want to understand what's what's really important to you," said U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
"We want to make sure that we are doing the things to develop and empower your security forces and help you work on your security architecture in ways that you think benefit you, and that certainly will promote regional stability."
The continent, whose leaders often feel they’ve been given short shrift by leading economies, remains crucial to global powers because of its rapidly growing population, significant natural resources and the sizable voting bloc in the United Nations.
Africa remains of great strategic importance as the U.S. recalibrates its foreign policy with a greater focus on China — what the Biden administration sees as the United States’ most significant economic and military adversary.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Monday said the administration would commit to spending $55 billion in Africa over the next three years on “a wide range of sectors to tackle the core challenges of our time