Biden plots trip to Angola as promise of Africa trip lingers

By Trevor Hunnicutt

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday he will visit Angola in a trip that could mark renewed engagement with Africa at a time of international turmoil.

“I have been there and I will be back,” Biden said when asked about visiting the country during an Oval Office meeting with his Angolan counterpart, Joao Lourenco.

Biden did not specify when the meeting would take place. The White House did not respond to a request for additional details.

The U.S. president, seeking re-election next year and facing a range of foreign policy challenges from Ukraine to Israel, has drawn attention for the lack of a trip to African continent despite what he says is its importance on global issues.

The two leaders were set to discuss cooperation and investment between the countries on solar energy, infrastructure development and space, areas where the Biden administration sees itself locked in competition with China and where it has also been trying to counter Russia.

As part of the visit, Angola was set to agree to the Artemis Accords, a pact designed to shape the rules for space exploration. Angola has a satellite program that has benefited from Russian support.

The United States has been supporting a project that links resource-rich Democratic Republic of Congo to the port of Lobito in Angola by rail to bypass road congestion and avoid delays on the copper and cobalt route.

“Africa: 1 billion people. Critically important,” Biden said ahead of the Oval Office meeting. “No country more important than Angola.”

Last December, Biden said, “I’m eager to visit your continent,” at a Washington summit of African leaders. “I’m looking forward to seeing many of you in your home countries.”

Biden briefly attended a climate conference in Egypt last year, but the conference was held on the Asian Sinai Peninsula. Vice President Kamala Harris took a week-long trip to Africa earlier this year.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Additional reporting by Joey Roulette; Editing by Alistair Bell)