First lady Jill Biden on Thursday said the U.S. and Namibia face similar challenges, pointing to climate change, economic inequality and strengthening democracy, as she spoke at an event on the second day of her trip to Africa.
Biden attended a luncheon at the Namibian state house, along with Namibian President Hage Geingob, Namibian first lady Monica Geingos and Sustjie Mbumba, the spouse of the vice president.
“We face many of the same challenges, from climate change to economic inequality to strengthening democracy, which is why the U.S. African Leaders Summit was held in Washington D.C., in December, because it was so important to him,” she said, referring to President Biden.
“And it’s why I’m proud to be standing here, standing with a strong democracy,” Biden added.
The president announced at the end of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in December that he will travel to sub-Saharan Africa in 2023. He said at the time that there will also be visits to Africa from other officials, including his wife.
The first lady on Thursday called Namibia a leader in gender equality, saying, “Mr. President, you and your government, which is full of strong women are setting an example for the world.”
Biden said she was talking to her husband about her trip, and he said the country’s struggle against apartheid inspired him to speak out as a senator. Namibia was previously under the rule of South Africa’s former apartheid system until 1990.
“He understood then as he does now that our futures are intertwined,” Biden said.
She added that the U.S. and Namibia share the same vision, which is “a world that is free.”
The trip will be her sixth overall visit to the continent, and include her first visit to Namibia and third visit to Kenya. She is the first senior White House official to visit Namibia since former Vice President Al Gore went in 1996.
Biden said at the luncheon that she chose to visit Namibia after meeting the first lady during the summit in December.
“Sometimes you meet someone, and you instantly know that you’ll be friends and that’s how I felt about Monica,” Biden said. “The conversation and the laugher came so easily, and I could hear your passion when you talked about your work.”
After the luncheon, Biden visited to Hope Initiatives Southern Africa-Namibia, which is located in the town of Katutura. The organization works to lift families out of poverty and curb gender-based violence.
She was joined by U.S. Ambassador to Namibia Randy Berry and the two meet with a Peace Corps volunteer who lives and works there.
After the visit, the first lady and granddaughter Naomi Biden handed out boxes of White House M&Ms to a group of about 40 children standing outside in Katutura.
“Hello, how are you? Candy from the White House!” the first lady said. When she ran out of candy and a little boy came up to her, she gave him the tote bag the candy came in.
The first lady, who will be in Africa until Sunday, is the third U.S. official to visit Africa this year after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
Her next stop is in Kenya, where she will “look at the impacts of drought on families and communities hardest hit,” officials said on Tuesday.
In both Namibia and Kenya, the first lady will participate in engagements about women’s and youth empowerment, gender-based violence, as well as about sexual and reproductive health programs and HIV support.
Source: The Hill