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Harris seeks billions for climate resilience across Africa

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, left, is greeted by Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema in Lusaka, Zambia, Friday March 31, 2023. Harris is on the last leg of a a seven-day African visit that took her to Ghana and Tanzania. (AP Photo/Salim Dawood)

LUSAKA, Zambia (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris is pushing for $7 billion in private-sector investments to help Africa prepare for the effects of climate change.

The announcement comes as she wraps up her weeklong trip to the continent on Saturday. Harris plans to visit a farm outside Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, where workers are using new techniques and technology to grow more produce, part of her effort to demonstrate ways to secure food supplies despite global warming.

“The United States is committed to these types of innovative solutions to support climate adaptation, mitigation and resilience,” she said Friday during a news conference with President Hakainde Hichilema.

Harris’ trip, which included stops in Ghana and Tanzania, is intended to advance U.S. efforts to make inroads in Africa, where China’s influence runs deep. The $7 billion announcement is the biggest-ticket item that Harris has announced, but more work will be needed to follow through.

For example, African Parks, a nonprofit group, has committed to raise $1.25 billion over the next seven years in order to expand its conservation program. Another organization, One Acre Fund, plans to raise $100 million to plant 1 billion trees by the end of the decade.

The politics of climate change are complicated in Africa, which has contributed far less to overall greenhouse gas emissions than richer corners of the world such as the United States. According to the International Energy Agency, 43% of Africans didn’t have access to electricity in 2021, and recent outages have sparked frustration.

In Ghana, Harris was questioned at a news conference about how the West can demand that Africa go green and forgo using its natural resources. She also was pressed on whether wealthy nations would supply $100 billion annually to help poor countries cope with climate change, a commitment made under the Paris climate accord.

Harris said it is “critically important that, as global leaders, we all speak truth about the disparities that exist in terms of cause and effect and that we address those disparities.” She said there were opportunities in the “clean energy economy” that could help generate growth in Africa.

As for the money, President Joe Biden has requested $11 billion in his proposed budget to meet its international commitments.

“We are waiting for Congress to do its work,” Harris said.