Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s Interview with Dr. Tami Hultman of All Africa

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
August 17, 2022


QUESTION: Would you please talk a bit about what you heard from Africans you met, and what you learned from those conversations?

AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I learned so much from that trip. And first and foremost, what I learned is that Africa continues – the continent, the people of Ghana, the people of Uganda, Cape Verde – they are so resilient. You see resiliency, you see strength, and you see fortitude among the people I met. I had the opportunity, in Uganda, to meet with NGOs, with refugee organizations, civil society groups, young businesspeople. And despite everything that’s going on in the world, they still are hopeful.

I saw it in Ghana. I went to the north of Ghana, to Tamale, met with farmers, women farmers, with a young woman who had participated in our Young African Leaders Initiative, who had started a program supporting young women who needed to learn a skill. And again, I saw resilience. And I think that in spite of everything that’s going on, the resilience and the hope is still there.

What I did hear from African leaders that I spoke to in all three countries, is that they are feeling the impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine. They’re feeling it in energy prices, they’re feeling it in food prices. I visited a granary, or grain mill in Uganda that gets 40 percent of its wheat from Ukraine. I heard them facing shortages and high prices. When I was in Uganda, sitting with farmers, they expressed concerns about the high price of fertilizer – the price had more than tripled for these farmers. One farmer told me that he would normally have planted 10 acres; he was only planting four because of fertilizer shortage. Another woman who was a farmer told me that she normally would have planted five acres and she was only planting one acre.

And as I talked to the leaders, they were very conscious of the impact that this was having on ordinary citizens. And they wanted to hear from me, from the United States, and others, how we were going to assist them in addressing some of these issues of food shortages, food insecurity, security broadly, and addressing some of the economic impact that they are facing.

QUESTION: And in these desperate situations in many countries from hunger, none of the food so far that has left Ukrainian ports has come to Africa, has it?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I don’t know the answer to that, Tami. I know that some of the food that WFP was involved with was going to be going to Somalia. I don’t know that it has reached Somalia yet, but I know that we all realize that this has impacted Africa even more than other regions of the world. So, I expect to see that food reaching the continent sooner rather than later.

QUESTION: And when you talked to leaders and farmers and women’s organizations, did you find that they are optimistic that what the United States says it will do will be accomplished or be delivered? As you know, there’s been a lot of cynicism about that and many doubts as to whether the United States will come through on its promises, partly stung by the fact that COVID vaccines reached Africa so little and so late, despite Africa’s contributions to testing them and other ways.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I did hear some of that. But I also saw that people were delighted to see us there. Because, as you know, on the heels of my trip, Secretary Blinken arrived in South Africa and visited DRC and Rwanda. Samantha Power had been in Malawi and in the Horn previously. So, the active engagement by American leaders is welcomed on the continent. I felt it personally, arriving in both Ghana and Uganda, and in Cape Verde, in the way that I was received by leaders. I think there was a sense that, certainly, over a period in the prior administration, that we had forgotten Africa. And there was a sense of welcome that we were back. And I think there was confidence that Africans felt that these leaders felt that they could depend on our commitment, on our word, and on what we can deliver.

And it’s – we’re not new, Tami, to the continent of Africa. We’re not new to any of these countries. We have been engaged in Uganda providing support in terms of health, when you look at what we’ve done in the past, through PEPFAR, through the Malaria initiative, through Feed the Future, in all of these countries, we have always been there for Africa. So, I didn’t get the sense that there was not confidence that we would be there. I mean, even when we were not present, physically, our programs and our funding have always been available to people on the continent.

And we announced new funding, I announced $20 million in new funding for refugee programs in Uganda, I announced additional Feed the Future funding in Ghana. So, we are certainly, we have not neglected Africa, in terms of our funding. And what we tried to do during this visit is strengthen what is already a solid relationship that we have with the continent of Africa. And this was about recalibrating, it was about reasserting our commitment to the continent. But we’re not new to the continent. And we have always put Africa first.

And I did hear concerns about COVID, that Africa was left on the sidelines on COVID. We have, however, over the course of the past two years, given nearly a billion doses of COVID vaccines. We’re very supportive of the effort to develop capacity on the continent of Africa, to develop vaccines so that Africans are not left out when vaccines are being delivered. So, we heard the concerns. We heard the complaints. And we are absolutely committed to working with African partners to address them.

QUESTION: Finally, in addition to what you announced on your trip, and what Secretary Blinken announced, are there other things that the United States needs to do to assure African people and leaders that the United States is going to be there for Africa and come through for Africans?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, we’re going to be doing quite a bit over the course of the remainder of this year. The President will be hosting a food security summit here in New York during High-Level Week where we will be addressing a broad range of issues that countries have faced related to food insecurity. And, as you know, we will be hosting the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit in December – December 13 through 15 – where we will invite every country. It’s going to be a two-way street. Where we will be listening from African leaders. We will be looking to hear from them their recommendations on how we can work with them better and what kinds of programs they need to address.

They certainly have made clear to us that security is an issue; that we need to take their security concerns seriously. We’re seeing a lot of backsliding, particularly in West Africa, on democracy. And we want to work with regional organizations, like ECOWAS, to address the root causes, and provide support for countries to build the capacity for their democracies to deliver to their people. Because if democracy is going to work, it has to be able to deliver to people. People have to have confidence in their governments; that their governments will provide for them and provide for their families and provide a future for their children. And I think the summit is going to be a huge effort on our part to start the process of, again, recalibrating, but also to really strengthen what is already a solid relationship that we have on the continent.