Dancers and drummers accompanied Namibia’s President Hage Geingob and first lady in welcoming US first lady Jill Biden to the country on Wednesday, as she began a five-day, two-country visit to Africa aimed at highlighting the challenges facing women and young people as well as the food insecurity plaguing the Horn of Africa.
After flying all night, the first lady was feted at the airport by members of some of Namibia’s many ethnic groups — clad in red, white, blue and bright pink — who greeted her with singing, dancing and drumming.
The last high-level US official to visit Namibia was vice president Al Gore in 1996, the White House said.
The first lady’s trip is part of a commitment by President Joe Biden to deepen US engagement with the fast-growing region. The US has fallen well behind China in investment in sub Saharan Africa, which has become a key battleground in an increasingly fraught competition between the major powers.
Biden, who was embraced by Namibia’s first lady Monica Geingob, was greeted by US and Namibian diplomatic and government officials.
The two first ladies met in December, when dozens of African leaders flew to Washington for the US Africa summit hosted by President Biden.
“I think it is safe to say that Monica and I became friends instantly,” said Biden, who was accompanied by granddaughter Naomi Biden.
After leaving the airport, the Bidens travelled 45 minutes south of Windhoek, the capital, to lay a wreath at Heroes’ Acre, Namibia’s official war memorial.
She later met the Geingobs at the State House, where her arrival was heralded with more singing and dancing.
This is Jill Biden’s sixth time in Africa, but her first trip as first lady. She is following in the footsteps of her recent predecessors, who all made the trip across the Atlantic Ocean in the name of trying to help foster goodwill towards the US.
“We have a lot to accomplish,” she said on Tuesday before departing Washington.
Africa is the fastest-growing and youngest region in the world, and by 2050 one in every four people will be African.
Biden previously visited Africa in 2010, 2011, twice in 2014 and once in 2016, all during her husband’s service as US vice president. Two of those trips were with him.
Credit: Mark-Anthony Johnson