Vice President Kamala Harris arrived in Accra, Ghana, on Sunday, kicking off a weeklong trip on the continent that will also take her to Tanzania and Zambia.
Harris, the first Black woman U.S. vice president, is making her first trip to Africa while in office.
She arrived Sunday in Air Force Two with the second gentleman, Doug Emhoff, and was greeted by Ghana’s Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia.
The welcome ceremony included a gift of flowers, dancers and drummers as she walked down a red carpet and a large group of children gathered to the side of the stage where she made brief remarks.
“What an honor it is to be here in Ghana and on the continent of Africa," she said on the tarmac of Kotoka International Airport.
"I’m very excited about the impact of Africa on the rest of the world," she said, pointing to a future in the coming decades in which the population -- with a current median age of 19 -- would help put African nations at the center of international relations.
While on her trip, Harris said she wants to promote "increasing investments," the "economic empowerment" of women, girls and young businesspeople, "digital inclusion" and food security in light of mounting challenges from climate change.
She said she will also be discussing democracy and government as she meets with various leaders and will be observing just some of the innovation and creativity that is "inspiring the world."
"We have a lot of work ahead of us, and again I'm so very excited to be here," she said.
The vice president will meet with Ghana's president Nana Akufo-Addo on Monday and hold a news conference following their meeting.
She travels to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Wednesday afternoon, and then departs Tanzania for Lusaka, the Zambian capital, on Friday, where she will meet with President Hakainde Hichilema.
She returns to Washington on April 2.
Harris continues the Biden administration's outreach to African countries amid competition from China and their growing influence on the continent, where countries have forged trade and other ties with Beijing.
Previewing the vice president's agenda on a call with reporters on Thursday evening, senior administration officials said Harris will be asking the leaders not to "choose" between the U.S. and China but to "expand" their options.
"We can't ignore the current geopolitical moment. It's no secret that we are engaged in competition with China. And we've said very clearly we intend to out-compete China in the long term," the officials said.
In a show of how much Tanzania values their relationship with China, President Samia Suluhu Hassan's first state visit outside of Africa last November was to meet President Xi Jinping in Beijing where their meeting focused on areas of cooperation such as agriculture trade and infrastructure.
Two notable moments to watch for during Harris' trip will be in Ghana and Zambia. The administration officials said that on Monday, Harris will tour Cape Coast Castle, a former slave-trade outpost and location of the so-called "Door of No Return," and deliver remarks on the "brutality of slavery and the African diaspora."
And Harris' time in Zambia will be notable as it marks her return to the country for the first time since she was a young girl. In the 1960s, she traveled there to visit her maternal grandfather, who was a civil servant in India and worked for several years in the Zambian government on refugee resettlement issues.