United States Looks to Counter China in Africa

Happy Thursday! And more importantly, happy Opening Day! To quote the late, great Roger Angell: “I felt what I almost always feel when I am watching a ballgame: Just for those two or three hours, there is really no place I would rather be.”

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The Senate voted 66-30 on Wednesday to repeal the 2002 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against Iraq, about 20 years after the U.S. invasion in 2003. The motion to repeal the AUMF—which subsequent presidents used as legal justification for military actions beyond the original invasion—now goes to the Republican-controlled House, where it may stall. The Biden administration supports the repeal.
  • The Taliban arrested prominent women’s rights activist Matiullah Wesa in Kabul on Monday, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. Wesa founded PenPath1, an organization that brings mobile classrooms to remote areas of Afghanistan, where the Taliban have barred women from attending school.
  • China threatened retaliation should Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen meet with Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California during her trip to the Americas in mid-April. A meeting between McCarthy and Tsai has not yet been confirmed, but a spokeswoman for China’s Taiwan affairs office said on Wednesday the meeting would represent a “provocation” that harms Chinese sovereignty and China would “definitely take measures to respond.”
  • The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved over-the-counter distribution of the opioid overdose-reversing drug Narcan as a nasal spray, the first such approval of the drug for non-prescription use. Already carried by many police officers and emergency responders, Narcan can rapidly reverse the effects of an overdose on opioids like heroin, fentanyl, and prescription oxycodone. The manufacturer, Emergent BioSolutions, will determine the timeline of its availability. 
  • The grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump’s alleged hush-money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels will take a pre-planned, one-month break from hearing evidence, according to people familiar with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s inquiry. The hiatus—which spans upcoming religious holidays and New York City public schools’ spring break—would push a potential Trump indictment to late-April at the earliest.
  • The Vatican announced Wednesday Pope Francis has been hospitalized with a pulmonary infection and will likely remain in the hospital for several days. The Pope—who is 86 years old—does not have COVID-19, according to a spokesman. 

VP Harris Heads to Africa

Vice President Kamala Harris delivers a speech at the Kotoka International Airport on March 26, 2023. (Photo by Ernest Ankomah/Getty Images)
Vice President Kamala Harris delivers a speech at the Kotoka International Airport on March 26, 2023. (Photo by Ernest Ankomah/Getty Images)

From a banquet with Hollywood stars at the Ghanaian presidential palace and a visit to a skatepark and music studio in the nation’s capital to a tour of a colonial-era fort used to imprison millions of enslaved people on their way to the Americas, Vice President Kamala Harris’ trip across Africa this week has thus far been a study in contrasts, a blend of hopeful and solemn talking points. 

With Harris’ high-profile visit—complete with more than $1 billion in funding announcements—the Biden administration is determined to prove its commitment to African nations is more than just a charm offensive. Harris has made only oblique references to the subtext of her travels—the United States’ intensifying competition with China for influence on the continent—but in order to make a meaningful change, analysts told The Dispatch, the U.S. will need to encourage economic investment, not just aid.

The African continent is young and growing: By 2100, the United Nations expects the world’s population to swell to around 11 billion from today’s 8 billion, with much of that growth coming in Africa, where the populations of 26 countries are projected to double. The median age on the continent is just 19—a point Harris has repeatedly brought up to argue Africa should be a top priority for the U.S. “It is your spark, your creativity, and your determination that will drive the future,” she told a crowd at a monument to Ghana’s independence. “We must invest in the African ingenuity and creativity that will unlock incredible economic growth and opportunities.”

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