November 10, 2022

Photos and Video: Van Hollen, Kaine Host State Department, Members of Virginia and Maryland's African Diaspora for Discussion on U.S.-Africa Policy

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) released the following statements after welcoming members of Maryland and Virginia's African diaspora community to the U.S. Senate for a briefing and panel discussion by the U.S. Department of State and other key stakeholders. Senators Van Hollen and Kaine both serve on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and on the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy, which is chaired by Senator Van Hollen. 

“The United States has a strong interest in deepening our bonds with people across Africa. We must build stronger partnerships to promote democracy, bolster our trade and investment ties, and build closer people-to-people relationships. This conversation with our African diaspora communities was a great opportunity to discuss these partnerships. I especially appreciate this chance to gather and speak with Marylanders with deep ties to African nations, as one in 50 Marylanders is a member of the African diaspora. As the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Africa and Global Health Policy, I will continue working to strengthen our partnerships across Africa and to support our mutual goals of economic, security, cultural, and humanitarian engagement,” said Senator Van Hollen.  

“Africa is home to budding economic powerhouses and strong emerging democratic partners, who are facing greater challenges from climate, migration and pervasive Russian and Chinese influence,” said Senator Kaine. “The African diaspora has long strengthened the fabric of our nation, and is one of the fastest-growing communities in Virginia. I’m deeply appreciative of the insights and perspectives our communities shared with us—from the importance of promoting democracy to the need to build lasting economic and diplomatic partnerships with countries throughout the Continent. I will continue to work to ensure that their voices are heard.” 

The lawmakers gave remarks at the event, where the U.S. Department of State briefed the community on the Biden Administration’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, which will take place in Washington, D.C. from December 13 through December 15, 2022. The event also included a panel and participant question and answer session featuring Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs at the U.S. Department of State Robert Scott; President of the U.S. Africa Business Center and Senior Vice President at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Scott Eisner; Division Chief of the Conflict, Peacebuilding, and Governance Division at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Karen O’Donnell; Senior Advisor for the Africa Bureau at USAID Mohy Omer; and Director of Congressional Affairs at the U.S. Trade and Development Agency Thomas Woodburn.

Maryland is home to more than 200,000 African-born immigrants. These members of the diaspora learn and teach in educational institutions, manage and own medium business enterprises, are deeply engaged in civil society throughout the state, and are an integral part of the fabric of Maryland. Senator Van Hollen and Congresswoman Karen Bass have introduced the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Act, legislation to make permanent the State Department’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). YALI is the United States’ signature effort to invest in the next generation of African leaders and support their efforts to spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across sub-Saharan Africa.

 Virginia is home to more than 115,000 African immigrants, thousands of whom are small- and medium-sized business owners who have helped bring more than $200 million in international trade to the Commonwealth. Earlier this year, Kaine led the introduction of a bill that Van Hollen supported to designate September as African Diaspora Heritage Month.

Photos of the event are available here.

Video of Senator Van Hollen’s remarks are available here.

Video of Senator Kaine’s remarks are available here.