Dr. Jill Biden, along with her granddaughter Naomi, are preparing for a six-day trip to Namibia and Kenya starting Tuesday, surpassing the nation’s first black vice president and even the president himself as the top White House official. to visit Africa during this administration.
“Today I am heading to Africa for my sixth visit to the continent and my first as First Lady. I have always believed that supporting women and youth around the world is critical to our common future, with education, health and empowerment at the center of it all,” she posted on Twitter just before leaving.
When asked about President Biden’s secret trip to Ukraine, she was as shocked as anyone. ‘He told me just before he left, and I was like what? Are you going where?
Jill Biden will take a six-day trip to Namibia and Kenya; her becoming the first White House official to visit Africa
Naomi Biden (girlfriend) is the granddaughter of President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden; she will join the official visit to Africa.
Dr. Biden spoke to her husband on Tuesday and when asked about the trip, “he told me he was glad he went.”
“I heard that the speech in Poland was incredible,” the first lady said of President Biden’s speech in Warsaw.
His presence comes at a time when the Biden administration is pushing to deepen US economic ties with Africa and provide a counterbalance to China and Russia, which have invested heavily in the continent.
The first lady is seen as a trusted messenger, someone who rarely missteps or deviates from the administration’s missives.
“She’s seen as the safer bet,” said Ohio University professor Katherine Jellison, who is an expert on first ladies.
During his five days on the ground, Biden will focus on food insecurity, an issue affecting an estimated six million Kenyans due to dry conditions in the arid nation.
The first lady “had very memorable experiences and made very genuine connections on her previous trips, which were in 2010 and 2011,” a senior administration official said Tuesday morning.
Jill Biden’s previous visits to Africa as Second Lady
2010 trip to Egypt, Kenya and South Africa with then Vice President Biden
2011 trip to Kenya
2014 trip to Zambia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone
2014 trip to Morocco with then Vice President Biden
2016 trip to Ethiopia, Malawi and Niger
“Based on her previous experiences, she has a very special appreciation for the challenges of regional food security, and was really motivated to use her return on her third visit to Kenya as a way of drawing attention to what an immediate food crisis is. and terrible, that it cannot wait for more intervention and mobilization of the international community.’
According to the UN World Food Program, around a third of Kenyans live in poverty and 29% of children in rural areas have been affected by food insecurity.
Jill Biden visited Kenya in 2011, as second lady, in the midst of East Africa’s worst drought in 60 years. During that trip, she also met with Somali refugees and held meetings on how the United States could help with the current refugee and food crisis.
She later wrote about visiting the Kibera community in Nairobi: ‘The quality of life is almost unimaginable: there is no electricity in homes and little access to running water. But it is where I met some of the bravest women and girls that I will never forget, fighting to change the circumstances of their community.’
Kenya has been plagued by a dry rainy season.
And the Biden administration claims that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has exacerbated the problem, cutting off an important food supply line to Africa.
President Joe Biden, speaking in Poland on Tuesday, criticized Russia for exacerbating the global food crisis.
“Putin tried to starve the world, blockading ports on the Black Sea to try to stop Ukraine from exporting its grain, exacerbating the global food crisis that hit developing nations in Africa especially hard,” he said. “This week my wife, Jill Biden, will travel to Africa to help bring attention to this critical issue.”
In addition, the first lady will focus on women’s empowerment, including issues related to gender-based violence, and youth, and promoting the administration’s pro-democracy message.
Namibia, for example, is a young but stable democracy on the continent. It will be Biden’s first visit to that nation. And Kenya has a history of political violence with hotly contested elections fueled by ethnic divisions and allegations of fraud.
The first lady’s trip also comes after President Biden made a successful secret trip to Ukraine to redouble America’s commitment to the embattled nation.
She will have a similar message, a virtual presence to deliver the message that the United States is here and ready to partner with African nations in their needs.
Jill Biden and President Joe Biden at the US-Africa Leaders Summit in the State Dining Room of the White House in December
Jill Biden in Kenya in August 2011 – she has made two previous trips to that country
President Biden has pledged that high-ranking members of his administration, including himself and Vice President Kamala Harris (above), will visit Africa.
It comes after the US hosted the Africa Leaders Summit in December, where the president vowed to send several members of the administration, including the vice president, to Africa, as well as pay a visit himself. He would be the first sitting US president to visit sub-Saharan Africa in a decade and is expected to do so later this year.
Jill Biden hosted a two-day spouses program during that summit, where she spent time with Namibian First Lady Monica Geingos and Kenyan First Lady Rachel Ruto.
She will showcase her own relationships with her counterparts and deepen America’s existing ties to Africa.
But the trip has also been assigned to an official who can be counted on to carry out the administration’s message without messing it up.
Jill Biden rarely missteps, unlike Kamala Harris, who mixed up her message on immigration when she laughed during an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt. Even President Biden has made her mistakes, such as when aides had to retract her impromptu line during a speech in Poland, where she appeared to call on Vladimir Putin to be ousted as Russia’s president.
And she highlights her role as Joe Biden’s closest adviser and is extremely protective of the president.
“What you get with our First Lady is they come back and they have the direct attention of the president,” said Princeton professor Lauren Wright, an expert on first ladies.
“It’s much better and more effective than sending a secretary of state or a vice president or someone else who just can’t communicate the gravity of the situation on the ground with the immediacy that first ladies can,” he added. “So any urgent message will be transmitted without a filter, and that is very rare in the executive branch.”
It’s a role Jill Biden has played before. This is her fourth solo international trip as first lady. She represented the United States at the Tokyo Olympics, visited Ukraine in May and traveled to Latin America last summer.
“This shows the great faith that Joe Biden has in Jill Biden at a time when it is very important to strengthen our relations with African nations,” Professor Jellison said.
Africa is home to some of the fastest growing economies in the world. President Biden has called for the United Nations Security Council to include a permanent representation for Africa, and has called for the African Union to become a permanent member of the G20.
Jill Biden walks behind a greenhouse net during a tour of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute in Nairobi in August 2011.
Then, Vice President Joe Biden and Second Lady Jill Biden visit the employees and survivors of the former US Embassy in Kenya during a 1998 trip.
The first lady is the third administration official to visit Africa, after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
Security will be tight on the trip, especially in Kenya, which has seen violence surrounding its elections. The country has also seen its rate of violence against women increase since the COVID pandemic.
Nearly half of women in the region experience gender-based violence in their lifetime, and a third of Kenyan girls experience some form of sexual violence before they turn 18, according to the Gender-Based Violence Recovery Center. Nairobi Women’s Hospital.
But Jill Biden has shown she’s not afraid to go where her husband and his administration are unpopular, like her visits to red states during the COVID pandemic to urge people to get vaccinated.
“First ladies have more ability to reach different audiences or hostile audiences than presidents, but also, it could be what we end up seeing as part of their legacy,” Wright said.