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Vice-President Harris salutes a 'democracy champion'

The gradualist reforms pursued by President Samia Suluhu have won a ringing endorsement from Washington

Tanzania's President Samia Suluhu Hassan was a main beneficiary of US Vice-President Kamala Harris's three-country diplomatic trip to Africa last week – she was hailed as a 'champion' of democracy and securing the most eye-catching of the limited economic offers on tap.

The main outcome of their meeting was an agreement between the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) and Tanzania to facilitate up to US$500 million in financing to help US companies export goods and services to Tanzania covering infrastructure, transportation, digital technology, climate and energy security and power generation.

President Samia Sululu Hassan said her most 'important request' was to improve the visa process between the US and Tanzania, and to establish a 'long duration visa' system that would increase trade and tourism.

During her stops in Ghana and Zambia, Harris announced plans to provide $1 billion in public and private money for economic development, and $100m for security assistance in West Africa, a nod to the operations of Russia's Wagner Group in the Sahel and Sudan.

Zambia, the last country on Harris' three nation tour, was one of the co-hosts of the Biden administration's second 'democracy summit' in Washington last week (Dispatches, 29/11/22, President Biden hosts African leaders amid multiple crises).

That was an important act of political symbolism but did little to help Zambia resolve the logjam over its debt restructuring which is holding back investment and development programmes.

 More widely, the Biden administration is yet to spell out the much-promised coherent and ambitious agenda for US-African relations. Its Africa strategy paper release last August by Secretary of State Antony Blinken included some new thinking on expanding ties but raised questions about the State Department's capacity for implementation given the under-staffing of many of its missions in Africa.

So far the Biden administration has been making ad hoc financing commitments and public-private partnerships that are similar in design, but offering far smaller sums of cash, than the European Union's investment programmes (AC Vol 64 No 2, Grand ambitions, little money).

Plans for President Joe Biden to make his own official visit to the continent, the first by a US president since Barack Obama, are still in the works. African diplomats have indicated that this will be a litmus test of how far the US's diplomatic and economic expansion is likely to stretch.

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