Remarks by Vice President Harris to Ghanaian Youth at Black Star Gate
Black Star Gate
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Hello! Hello, Ghana! (Applause.) I am incredibly honored to be with you here in Ghana and to the people of this incredible continent, to the people of Ghana, and to all the young leaders with us today — students, entrepreneurs, activists, advocates. It is my extraordinary honor to be with you.
So, I don’t need to tell you the median age on the African continent is 19. By 2050, one in four people in the entire world will be on this very continent. One in four. That, of course, means what happens on this continent impacts the entire world.
Seeing all of you here today makes me so optimistic and excited about this future — the energy, the dynamism, and the potential that each of you embody. And that is why I am here today.
As President Joe Biden said at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit last December, we’re all in on Africa.
We are all in — (applause) — because African nations play such a critical role on issues of global importance, issues that matter to the American people and to the world. Issues like food security, the climate crisis, public health, and resilient supply chains.
We are all in — because African leadership is critical to global peace and security, and African nations are essential partners at the United Nations and in support of international rules and norms.
We are all in — because the fates of the American people and of America and the continent of Africa are interconnected and interdependent.
We are all in — because there are longstanding ties between our people. We have an intertwined history, some of which is painful and some of which is prideful, and all of which we must acknowledge, teach, and never forget. (Applause.)
Because of this history, this continent, of course, has a special significance for me personally as the first Black Vice President of the United States of America. (Applause.)
And this is a history, like many of us, that I learned as a young child — stories, cultures, and traditions passed down from generations. In addition, this continent has a personal meaning for me because my grandfather and other members of my family worked in Zambia in the 1960s alongside a newly independent people.
I was fortunate enough to visit them in Zambia as a young girl. The values that guided my relatives when they were there, and the legacy of their efforts, remain a source of pride for my entire family and continue to animate my work today.
So, then, what does it mean that the United States of America is all in?
It means that the United States is committed to strengthen our partnerships across the continent of Africa — partnerships with governments, the private sector, civil society, and all of you. Partnerships based on openness, inclusiveness, candor, shared interests, and mutual benefits.
And to be clear, America will be guided not by what we can do for our African partners, but what we can do with our African partners. (Applause.)
Together, we will address the challenges we face and the incredible opportunities ahead.
And today, I will speak about one particular area of opportunity: investment in innovation.
Innovation I believe to be the pursuit of what can be unburdened by what has been. Innovation results in one’s ability not only to see, but to do things differently. New methods, new products, new approaches, new ideas. We innovate to be more effective and to solve problems.
From the invention of new technology, to the origin of social movements, innovation has come about by challenging the premise, questioning the status quo, and bold thinking.
And so to the young leaders here today, you, by your very nature, are dreamers and innovators.
And so, to you I say: It is your spark, your creativity, and your determination that will drive the future. And with that then, African ideas and innovations will shape the future of the world. (Applause.)
And so we must invest in the African ingenuity and creativity, which will unlock incredible economic growth and opportunities, not only for the people of the 54 countries that make up this diverse continent, but for the American people and people around the world.
So the Biden-Harris administration and the American people stand ready to partner with you, to help accelerate the innovation and entrepreneurship that is already underway.
Let’s look, for example, at what is happening across the continent in technology, science, agriculture, and clean energy, where innovation is solving local problems and global problems.
Just think, before Venmo or Apple Pay, there was M-PESA in Kenya, a mobile phone payment service that revolutionized the digital financial system.
Right now, African nations are pioneering the delivery of healthcare supplies by drone in Rwanda. (Applause.) This has reduced the delivery time for emergency blood supplies.
In Ghana, this service has delivered more than 9 million vaccines, including those for COVID-19. (Applause.) This service has expanded to Kenya and Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire and recently to the United States, in North Carolina, Arkansas, and Utah.
In South Africa, part of the world’s largest radio telescope is under construction, which will help answer some of the biggest questions of humanity, about galaxies, about gravity.
In Tanzania, plans are underway to build the first facility of its kind on the continent to process minerals that go into electric vehicle batteries.
We see water-based farming in Kenya, battery energy storage systems in Malawi, and fintech startups in Nigeria.
African ideas and innovation innovations shaping the world, all of which fuel our optimism and hope.
Yet we must also be candid about the challenges — from security concerns in the Sahel, to droughts and floods exasperated by the climate crisis, and barriers to economic growth both on a macro and micro level.
We must tackle these challenges and find ways to accelerate opportunity, growth, and stability.
And I believe we must be intentional to make progress in three key areas: the empowerment of women — (applause); digital inclusion; and good governance and democracy, all of which are a focus of my visit to the continent and going forward, and all of which have the potential to create even more innovation, innovation that will unlock new jobs, new industries, and exponential growth.
So let us agree: Women around the world must be able to fully participate in economic, political, and social life. (Applause.) And they must be able to participate equally, including in leadership roles. It is a key to maximizing global growth and opportunity.
However, we see gender disparities around the world, including in the United States — disparities we must all address on the continent of Africa.
We know women grow a majority of the food, yet they are less likely to own the land they farm. They represent a majority of frontline healthcare workers, but face disparities in health outcomes.
Women are entrepreneurs yet have limited access to capital and markets. They are peacemakers and bridge builders yet continue to be underrepresented at the tables where decisions are being made.
And there are many factors that impact a woman’s ability to survive and thrive. One of those is economic empowerment. And when we lift up the economic status of a woman, let’s be clear, we lift up the economic status of her children, her family, her community. The entire economy benefits. (Applause.)
So know that the United States of America will work alongside our partners each and every day to close gender gaps here and around the world.
And, ultimately, our belief is that the empowerment of women is rooted in the concept of freedom. Not just freedom from violence or want, but freedom to create one’s own future, a freedom we desire for all people.
The second area where we must together make progress is in the digital economy. Whether you are a student relying on virtual courses, a farmer relying on an app for an early warning about extreme weather, or a small-business owner looking to sell goods online, digital services are essential to 21st century economies.
There are places on the continent of Africa that lead the world in digital solutions yet other places on the continent that lag behind.
Expanding access to the Internet drives growth and creates opportunity for innovation. And once people are online, they have greater access then to education, greater access to information, and greater access to financial services — which is why the United States will double down on our effort to mobilize billions of dollars in public and private capital from the United States, the continent of Africa, and around the world, in order to expand Internet access for the benefit of all people here on the continent. (Applause.)
To this end, the partnership between the public and private sectors is essential. Partnerships that combine the experience and expertise of the private sector with the reach and capacity that only governments can provide.
Together, we can unleash growth and opportunity that far exceeds what either the public or private sector can achieve on its own. And the United States is committed to build these types of partnerships to increase digital inclusion on the continent.
And finally, to create inclusive economic growth and to advance innovation we must continue to support and invest in good governance and democracy. (Applause.)
Good governance — well, it delivers predictability, stability, and rule of law, which is what businesses need to invest and what benefits all of society. And good governance is a key attribute of a good democracy.
Recent polling tells us the vast majority of Africans support democracy over other forms of government, which reflects our shared desire for freedom and opportunity, transparency, and accountability for free and fair elections, the orderly transition of power, and the protection of fundamental human rights.
Indeed, this is a priority for the American people, and it is a global priority. The United States will continue to work alongside democratic governments and in support of democratic aspirations of the people of this continent.
In demonstration of this partnership this week, our administration is co-hosting the Zambia — in Zambia — the Summit for Democracy, an opportunity to learn from each other and strengthen democratic institutions.
And I will say, while democracy is always a work in progress, including in my own country, the American people will always stand with those yearning for more freedom. (Applause.)
And let us be clear that innovation thrives in a democracy. New ideas thrive where freedoms thrive. Free thinking leads to problem solving.
And so, I believe, acting together with intention, we can make progress in these three areas: the empowerment of women, digital inclusion, and good governance and democracy.
And just let us take a moment to imagine the future — a future where women are not just included, but also lead. (Applause.)
Imagine a future where every person is connected to the digital economy. A future where every young person trusts that their voices are heard. A future that is propelled by African innovation.
So as we leave here today, let us consider then our shared future. Know the United States will remain a steadfast partner for progress.
I am more optimistic than I have ever been about the future and the future of the continent of Africa and, by extension, the world, not only because of the work we undertake in government, not only because of the investments in the private sector. I am optimistic about the future of the world because of you — the woman who will shatter every glass ceiling — (applause); the entrepreneur who will identify the next digital breakthrough; the activist who will fight for the dignity of every human being — students and scientists, athletes and artists, farmers and fishers; and the young innovators who will solve problems that we haven’t yet identified with solutions we can’t even yet imagine.
So all of this to say: You, and in particular the young leaders here, you have a role to play. And together, we have a role to play. So, then, let us dream with ambition and lead with conviction.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)