Grammy-winning Hollywood actress, Viola Davis is among the inaugural members of US President Joe Biden’s inaugural Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement. The council, set to be chaired by Silvester Beaman, Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, aims to foster improved relationships, trade, investment, and educational exchanges between the U.S. and African nations.
This announcement comes as part of the Biden administration’s broader strategy to enhance the United States’ standing in Africa, countering the rising influence of China and Russia on the continent. During the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in December last year, President Biden had revealed his plan to establish this advisory council, signaling a renewed commitment to strengthen ties with Africa.
Judd Devermont, the National Security Council’s senior director for African Affairs, highlighted that the council’s responsibilities encompass advising the President on diverse issues. These include strengthening relations with African communities, fostering trade and investment opportunities, and encouraging educational exchanges, among others.
Viola Davis, known for her exceptional acting career and recent Grammy win for the audio recording of her memoir “Finding Me,” brings her influence and passion to this pivotal role. Joining her on the council are esteemed individuals like Almaz Negash, founder of the African Diaspora Network; Patrick Gaspard, the president and CEO of the Centre for American Progress think tank; and C.D. Glin, president of the PepsiCo Foundation and global head of social impact for PepsiCo.
This strategic initiative by the United States seeks to redefine its image and forge stronger partnerships with African nations, countering the expansive endeavors by China, particularly in funding infrastructure projects across the continent. In recent years, China has significantly increased its presence and influence in Africa, notably through financing crucial infrastructure ventures.
Simultaneously, Russia has been amplifying its influence, engaging with African nations and supporting their efforts against insurgencies through groups like the Wagner mercenary organization. The Kremlin’s Africa summit in 2019 marked its heightened interest in the continent, which has only grown more pronounced after its involvement in the Ukraine conflict.