The first members of the President’s Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement, including star Viola Davis, were unveiled by President Joe Biden on Tuesday. Davis will advise Washington on strengthening relationships with African communities.
Washington has tried to emphasize the area’s significance and combat threats from China and Russia to the American interests there.
Washington announced intentions to create the council in December last year during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit to strengthen its relations with the continent.
According to Judd Devermont, the senior director for African Affairs at the National Security Council, the council will advise the president on various issues, including improving ties between African communities and the United States, encouraging trade and investment, and fostering educational exchanges.
Silvester Beaman, the Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church who delivered the invocation during Biden’s inauguration in 2021, will serve as the council’s head.
Among the other members, in addition to Viola Davis, are Patrick Gaspard, the leader of the Center for American Progress think tank, C.D. Glin, the president of the PepsiCo Foundation, and Almaz Negash, the creator of the African Diaspora Network.
Davis joined the select group of EGOT winners this year after winning a Grammy for the audiobook version of her biography “Finding Me,” which also earned her an Emmy, an Oscar, a Tony, and a Grammy.
In a news statement, the White House described Davis as “a revered artist, activist, producer, and philanthropist” who, among other things, “has partnered with multiple programs to eliminate child hunger in the United States.”
As China has pushed to extend its influence by supporting infrastructure projects on the continent and overseas, the United States wants to promote itself as a better partner to African nations.
In 2019, Russia hosted its first summit in Africa. Since deploying soldiers to Ukraine, it has increased its efforts to gain business and influence on a continent where its Wagner mercenary outfit is still active.