The United States will demonstrate its commitment to the African continent with $55 billion in pledges, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday on the eve of a three-day summit of 50 high-level African delegations in Washington.
"The U.S. will commit $55 billion to Africa over the course of the next three years, across a wide range of sectors, to tackle the core challenges of our time," Sullivan said. "These commitments build on the United States' long-standing leadership and partnership in development, economic growth, health and security in Africa."
"We will shower you with details about those deliverables" as the summit progresses, he said.
In response to a question from VOA, Sullivan stressed that this money is not conditional on African nations' condemning Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. In March, shortly after the invasion started, 17 African nations abstained from a vote to condemn Russia at the United Nations.
"We're not putting a gun to anyone's head," Sullivan responded, adding: "We will make the case with passion and persistence to every country in the world that they should speak out against these flagrant violations of the U.N. Charter. We're not imposing conditionality from the point of view of this summit on decisions."
But corruption watchdogs say these big-dollar commitments pale in comparison with the estimated $88 billion that leaks out of the continent annually in illicit financial flows — through real estate purchases, offshore investments or anonymous shell companies.
"If you look at recent figures, U.S. government aid to sub-Saharan Africa has fluctuated between $6.5 and $7.5 billion a year," said Ian Gary, executive director of the Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency Coalition.
"On the other hand, Africa is losing much more than that every year through illicit financial flows. So it's important to recognize that if you want to support African development, if you want to support economic development, if you want Africa to be able to address the climate crisis and the debt crisis, we need to do our part as Americans to ensure that African governments have the resources to tackle those challenges," Gary said.
Sullivan said that the summit, which runs through Thursday, will include a small multilateral meeting between President Joe Biden and a select group of African leaders, who have yet to be identified. The leaders would discuss, among other things, the elections happening on the continent in 2023, Sullivan said. Polls of note include presidential elections in Congo, Sudan and the world's newest country, South Sudan.
And on Wednesday night, Sullivan added, the heads of each of the 50 delegations will be invited to dine with the Bidens at the White House.
The White House has been careful in its references to Washington's biggest competition on the continent: Beijing. China has been a major player in lending and building infrastructure in Africa and has faced criticism for its loan practices — a charge that China's top diplomat in Washington disputes.
"China's investment and financing assistance to Africa is not a trap, it's a benefit," said Qin Gang, China's ambassador to the U.S., during the Semafor Africa summit in Washington on Monday. "There is no such trap. It's not a plot. It's transparent, it's sincere, it's obvious."
Regardless, said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, the U.S. is going to keep the focus narrow as the 50 delegations meet for three full days to discuss a range of issues — including development, governance, food security and more — that could determine the future of the world's fastest-growing continent.
"It's not going to be about China," she said. "It's going to be about Africa."