WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced the first members of the President’s Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement, including actor Viola Davis, who will advise Washington on deepening ties with African communities.
Washington has sought to stress the region’s importance and counter challenges posed by China and Russia to the United States’ interests in the increasingly important region.
Washington announced plans to establish the council in December last year during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, which aimed to deepen Washington’s ties with the region.
The council will advise the president on a range of issues, including how to strengthen relations between African communities and the United States, promoting trade and investment and building educational exchanges, among other issues, Judd Devermont, the National Security Council’s senior director for African Affairs, told reporters.
The chair of the council will be Silvester Beaman, the Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church who pronounced the benediction at Biden’s inauguration in 2021.
In addition to Viola Davis, members include: Patrick Gaspard, the president and CEO of the Center for American Progress think tank; C.D. Glin, president of the PepsiCo Foundation and global head of social impact for PepsiCo; and Almaz Negash, founder of the African Diaspora Network, among others.
Davis this year won a Grammy for her audio recording of her memoir “Finding Me,” granting her entry into the elite ranks of EGOT winners with an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony award.
The White House in a press release said Davis was “a revered artist, activist, producer, philanthropist”, who among other things, “has partnered with multiple programs to eliminate child hunger in the United States”.
The United States aims to position itself as a better partner to African countries as China has sought to expand its influence by funding infrastructure projects on the continent and elsewhere.
Russia held its first Africa summit in 2019 and since sending troops into Ukraine has been pushing harder for influence and business on a continent where its Wagner mercenary group remains active.
(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Simon Lewis; Editing by Don Durfee and David Gregorio)