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Harris to Meet Ghana's President       03/27 06:16


   ACCRA, Ghana (AP) -- U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will meet on Monday 
with Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo in a show of support for the West 
African leader, who's facing rising discontent over inflation and fresh 
concerns about regional security.

   Harris is just beginning a weeklong trip to the continent that will also 
take her to Tanzania and Zambia, part of a concerted effort to broaden U.S. 
outreach at a time when China and Russia have entrenched interests of their own 
in Africa.

   Akufo-Addo oversaw one of the world's fast-growing economies before the 
COVID-19 pandemic. However, the cost of food and other necessities has been 
skyrocketing, and the country is facing a debt crisis as it struggles to make 

   In addition, sporadic fighting has increased in Ghana's north, which borders 
the more tumultuous nation of Burkina Faso and the Sahel, a region where local 
offshoots of al-Qaida and the Islamic State group have been operating.

   "Ghana is experiencing a very tough moment," said Rama Yade, senior director 
of the Atlantic Council's Africa Center.

   Harris will announce $139 million in U.S. assistance for Ghana, according to 
her office. Some of that money will require congressional approval, which could 
prove difficult amid sharp partisan differences over the federal budget. The 
Treasury Department also plans to dispatch an adviser to Accra to help manage 
the country's burdensome debt.

   Other programs are intended to reduce child labor, improve weather 
forecasting, support local musicians and defend against disease outbreaks.

   The United States has already sent troops to train militaries from Ghana and 
other countries in the hopes of bolstering their defenses. However, other 
countries have turned to the Russian mercenary force known as Wagner, which has 
been on the front lines of Russia's war in Ukraine but also has a presence in 

   Wagner began operating in Mali, which ousted French troops based there, and 
there are concerns that it will also deploy to Burkina Faso, where France also 
ended its military presence. Ghana recently accused Burkina Faso's leaders, 
which took power in a coup last year, of already turning to Wagner for help, 
something Akufo-Addo said would be "unsettling."

   U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently visited Niger, which borders 
Mali and Burkina Faso, to announce more assistance for the region.

   "We've seen countries find themselves weaker, poorer, more insecure, less 
independent as a result of the association with Wagner," he said.

   Although China's influence in Africa has been a leading concern for U.S. 
foreign policy, Russia's own attempts to make inroads has alarmed Washington as 
well. Some countries have longstanding ties dating back to the Soviet era.

   The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, has made multiple trips to the 
continent in an effort to show that the West has failed to isolate Moscow for 
its invasion of Ukraine.

   "The Russians are continuing to make the first move in Africa, and the U.S. 
is continuing to play catch-up," said Samuel Ramani, associate fellow at the 
Royal United Services Institute, a London-based defense and security think tank.

   "It's really unclear how Russia will really be able to expand its influence 
in the long term," he added. "But in the short term, they're creating goodwill 
for themselves."

   Mucahid Durmaz, a senior analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, a global risk 
intelligence company, said that Moscow's overall investments in Africa "are 
very modest" compared with Washington's but adds that it's been able to 
leverage anti-Western sentiment in some areas of the continent.

   "The Ukraine war has boosted Africa's importance in international politics 
and increased geopolitical jostling among global powers for the support of its 
governments and nations," he said.

   U.S. officials have steered clear of framing their approach in terms of 
global rivalries, something that could swiftly sour Africans who are wary of 
being caught in the middle.

   "They remain cautious about becoming collateral damage to geopolitical 
competition by repeating the same mistakes of the Cold War era," Durmaz said.

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