Mar 29, 2023

Harris Visits Africa to Strengthen U.S. Ties and Counter Chinese Influence Transcript

Harris Visits Africa to Strengthen U.S. Ties and Counter Chinese Influence Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsAfricaHarris Visits Africa to Strengthen U.S. Ties and Counter Chinese Influence Transcript

Vice President Kamala Harris is in Africa this week for a three-country tour focused on economic development and security. Read the transcript here.

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Amna Nawaz (00:00):

Vice President Kamala Harris is in Africa this week for a three country tour, focused on economic development and security. Over nine days, she’ll meet with political leaders in Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia.

Geoff Bennett (00:12):

Her travel follows other trips by senior officials to the continent as pressure to counter Chinese influence in the region grows. Laura Barrón-López reports on the trip’s historic and strategic significance.

Laura Barrón-López (00:26):

For America’s first Black female vice president, a trip with deep political and personal meaning. Kamala Harris, placing flowers in a women’s dungeon at the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana and walking through the Door of No Return, where millions of Africans were forced in chains onto ships bound for the Americas.

Vice President Kamala Harris (00:44):

So being here was immensely powerful and moving.

Laura Barrón-López (00:57):

Speaking off script about the brutality of slavery, Harris challenged growing efforts back home to censor Black history.

Vice President Kamala Harris (01:04):

It cannot be denied. It must be taught. History must be learned.

Laura Barrón-López (01:13):

A solemn moment to recognize the past, during a visit, Harris says, is focused on the future, specifically for women and young people.

Vice President Kamala Harris (01:20):

To witness firsthand the extraordinary innovation and creativity that is occurring on this continent.

Laura Barrón-López (01:30):

On the fastest growing and youngest continent.

Vice President Kamala Harris (01:32):

How are you? Nice to meet you.

Laura Barrón-López (01:35):

Harris met with young artists at a skate park and recording studio.

Vice President Kamala Harris (01:39):

You are speaking in a way that, around the globe, people hear songs that are rooted in concepts, like freedom.

Laura Barrón-López (01:46):

Joining her were actors, Idris Elba and Sheryl Lee Ralph, together to highlight the power of music to unite the global African diaspora.

Sheryl Lee Ralph (01:58):


Laura Barrón-López (02:03):

Harris’ trip follows the African Leaders Summit held in Washington last year.

President Joe Biden (02:08):

The United States is all in on Africa and all in with Africa.

Laura Barrón-López (02:14):

Since then, she is the fifth high ranking administration official to visit the continent in a sweeping effort to strengthen relationships in a part of the world where Chinese influence runs deep. China has poured billions into infrastructure and development projects across Africa, including a 2 billion dollar deal in Ghana to build roads and bridges. On this trip, Harris announced 100 million in security and conflict prevention assistance for the Western coast, but said the goal wasn’t to counter China.

Vice President Kamala Harris (02:43):

This trip is motivated by the importance of the direct relationship between the United States and Ghana.

Laura Barrón-López (02:50):

And Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo made clear he would work with both nations.

President Nana Akufo-Addo (02:56):

There may be an obsession in America about the Chinese activities on the continent, but there’s no such obsession here about China is one of the many countries with whom Ghana is engaged in the world. Your country is one of them. Virtually, all the countries of the world are friends of Ghana.

Laura Barrón-López (03:14):

The vice president is expected to announce additional investments later this week, to empower women-run businesses, enhance food security, and promote climate resilience. In Ghana, a model of democracy in the region. Harris said the two countries must continually work to preserve freedom. The vice president will also travel to Zambia, a place where her grandfather lived and where she spent time as a child.

Geoff Bennett (03:37):

And Laura, there’s so much symbolism wrapped up in this week long trip. There are multiple audiences, both abroad and here at home. What is the White House hoping to achieve?

Laura Barrón-López (03:46):

At its core, they’re hoping that the vice president really uses her ability to strengthen ties with Africa, that they talk a lot about the historical significance of her going there. But one personal political thing that she is also working on is gaining foreign policy experience. She’s met with more than a hundred foreign leaders so far as vice president. This comes after her big trip to the Munich Security Conference, and this is showing that she’s very much a part of the Biden reelection plan.

Geoff Bennett (04:15):

The Vice President’s Office has been, I think, fairly aggressive and intentional about owning and trying to reshape public perceptions of her and how she’s handling the job. How can we look at the trip in that context?

Laura Barrón-López (04:29):

Well, like President Biden, Vice President Harris has an uphill climb right now with the public, with voters. There’s a recent Monmouth poll, that shows Harris approval rating is at 36%, and her disapproval rating is at 53%. But I spoke to multiple sources that are close to Harris, and they argue that she is really key to the president’s reelection, that Democrats are starting to rally around her and say that the back biting needs to stop. And they’ve really warned other Democrats that, if she were to somehow be set aside, that there would be a swift backlash. One thing that they also stressed is that, for the first year and a half of the administration, there was very little time spent out on the trail. Now, Harris has recently traveled to Tallahassee, Florida on abortion rights, traveled to Iowa. It was her first trip to the state this year on abortion rights, and that’s a big focus for her.

Geoff Bennett (05:25):

I was really struck by the fact that the vice president was not on this trip alone. She was surrounded by friends, allies, celebrities. What was the idea behind that?

Laura Barrón-López (05:34):

So this was actually her idea, according to the sources that I spoke to today, that are close to her. She wanted all those celebrities, including Spike Lee, the film director, the President of the NAACP, the President of the Urban League, as well as a number of HBCU presidents, there with her, because they said that, look, they understand that Harris doesn’t always get all the press that they want her to get, that the vice president alone may not be able to create this echo chamber. And they also said that, bringing those people along, they bring their own resources and investments to the continent, to really stress the importance of these ties with Africa, that the administration is focusing on.

Geoff Bennett (06:11):

A bit of a signal boost on this historic trip. Laura Barrón-López, thanks so much for that reporting.

Laura Barrón-López (06:15):

Thank you.

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