US Vice President Kamala Harris met with Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo on Monday, bringing an aid package to shore up security, economic and development cooperation as part of a three-nation African tour.
The trip to Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia until April 2 follows a December summit hosted by President Joe Biden in Washington with leaders from Africa, where Washington hopes to balance the rising influence of China and Russia.
After a brief meeting at the presidential palace in the capital Accra, Akufo-Addo and Harris said the visit would strengthen ties and opportunities with historic partner Ghana, playing down concerns the trip was motivated only by countering Chinese investments.
“This trip is motivated by the importance of the direct relationship between the United States and Ghana, and as I travel the continent, those countries as well,” Harris told reporters.
Struggling with an economic crisis, burgeoning debt and inflation of over 50 percent, Ghana has agreed a $3 billion loan deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Ghana’s finance minister also returned this month from a trip to China, where the two governments discussed debt issues.
“China is one of the many countries with whom Ghana is engaged,” Akufo-Addo said. “The relationship between America and Ghana is a relationship which has its own dynamic.”
Earlier on Monday, Harris’ office said the US would provide Ghana with $139 million (128 million euros) in bilateral assistance next year, including for economic, business and culture initiatives, and for the health sector such as an anti-malaria programme.
Washington will send a special advisor to Ghana to help Akufo-Addo’s government with its debt profile management this year, it said.
Ghana is one of the Gulf of Guinea nations, along with Ivory Coast and neighbours Benin and Togo, suffering from the fallout from jihadist violence over their northern borders in Burkina Faso.
A French troop withdrawal from Mali after disputes with the ruling junta there and two coups and instability in Burkina Faso have helped refocus Western partners to aid Gulf of Guinea nations to counter the southward spillover of militant violence.
Ghana has pushed for more regional military cooperation among West African coastal states as well as initiatives to help development and aid in vulnerable northern border regions.
Harris said the Biden administration would invest $100 million as part of a plan to help Ghana, Benin, Togo and Ivory Coast in stabilisation and countering the threat of jihadism.
Asked about a bill currently in Ghana’s parliament that critics say will severely restrict LGBTQ rights, Harris said she had addressed the issue with Akufo-Addo and said the US considered LGBTQ rights a human rights matter.
Other programmes announced by Harris’ office will include small business development funds especially for women and youth, financing to help combat child labour in Ghana’s cocoa industry and investments in weather and climate early warning systems.
Harris will also meet entrepreneurs, students, women and farmers while in Ghana and will also visit the historic Cape Coast Castle where slaves were kept 400 years ago.
After Ghana, she will travel on Wednesday to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.