Kamala Harris speaks on women issues, tours Ghana's Cape Coast

Wednesday March 29 2023
US VP Kamala Harris

US Vice President Kamala Harris on March 28, 2023 speaks at the Cape Coast Castle, Ghana. She spoke about women empowerment and toured the coastal building that was the last stop for Africans sold into the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. PHOTO | NIPAH DENNIS | AFP


US Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday delivered a speech to thousands of young Ghanaians in Accra on women's empowerment and toured the country’s coastal building that was the last stop for Africans sold into the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Her visit to Ghana, is the first stop on an African tour that will also take her to Tanzania and Zambia.

Harris used the stop to promise American partnership, exhort African nations to do more for women and to speak about the importance of learning difficult history, in an apparent reference to recent Republican push to strike some lessons from US classrooms.

Read: Harris urges Africans to empower women

In a speech in front of Black Star Gate, a monument built on the site where Ghana declared independence from Britain in 1957, Harris said that one in four people in the world will be African by the middle of the century.

"That of course means what happens on this continent impacts the entire world," she said.


Africa’s innovation key

Citing examples such as the pioneering of mobile phone payments in Kenya or healthcare deliveries by drone in Rwanda before such services existed in the US, Harris said innovation would be key to Africa's future success.


A client using a mobile money service M-Pesa in Kenya. PHOTO | NMG

"We must invest in the African ingenuity and creativity, which will unlock incredible economic growth and opportunities not only for the people of the 54 countries that make up this diverse continent, but also for Americans and people around the world," she said.

Harris underlined deep gender disparities in Africa, saying the US would work alongside African partners to close those gaps.

Women empowerment important

"We know women grow a majority of the food in Africa, yet they are less likely to own the land they farm. They represent a majority of frontline healthcare workers but face disparities in health outcomes. Women are entrepreneurs yet have limited access to capital and markets. They are peacemakers and bridge builders yet continue to be under-represented at the table where decisions are made," she said.

To cheers, she said that the economic empowerment of women would benefit not only themselves but also their children, families, communities and the entire economy.

“The US can also partner on digital inclusion, good governance and democracy,” Harris said.

Read: Africa’s digital economy projected to rise

She described the latter as a work in progress and including in her own country, an apparent allusion to the turbulence seen in US politics and elections in recent years.

Cape Coast tour

Later, Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff toured a 17th-century slave fortress in Cape Coast, one of many coastal buildings active during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade that forcibly removed 12.5 million people mainly from Central and West Africa, and sent them to work across the Americas, Europe and the Caribbean.

She appeared moved during the tour and taking several deep breaths, according to a pool reporter traveling with her. She laid flowers in the female slave dungeon and went through the so-called "Door of no Return" where slaves were shipped out. Emhoff also wiped tears according to the reporter.

US VP Harris and her husband Doug

US Vice President Kamala Harris (L) and her husband Douglas Emhoff (R) react during a tour of the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana on March 28, 2023. PHOTO | NIPAH DENNIS | AFP

"Being here was immensely powerful and moving when we think about how human beings were treated by the hundreds of thousands in this very place that we now stand, the crimes that happened here, the blood that was shed here," Harris said from Cape Coast Castle.

"They came to this place of horror; some to die, many to starve, tortured and women to be raped, before they were then forcibly taken on journey thousands of miles from their home to be sold by merchants and taken to the Americas, to the Caribbean to be an enslaved people."

Harris said the horror of what had happened there must be remembered. "It cannot be denied and must be taught. History must be learned," she said.

Republican-led states including Florida, Georgia and Texas have enacted new laws to limit teaching about the role of racism in the US.