Jill Biden began a five-day trip to Namibia and Kenya Wednesday, her sixth visit to the continent of Africa and her first as First Lady.
The First Lady’s travel is part of a pledge by President Biden to deepen U.S. engagement in the region. During a U.S.-Africa Summit at the White House in December, the President announced that he, himself, intended to visit the continent sometime in the future, though he didn’t specify which nations he would visit, or when he would make the trek.
Dr. Biden’s visit kicked off in Namibia, which has not welcomes a high-level U.S. official since 1996.
Accompanied by her granddaughter, Naomi, she and Namibian First Lady Monica Geingos embraced on the tarmac before Dr. Biden greeted waiting U.S and Namibian diplomatic and government officials.
The visit Wednesday involved laying a wreath at Heroes’ Acre, Namibia’s official war memorial. She also met with President Hage Geingob alongside Namibia’s First Lady at the State House.
Dr. Biden previously visited Africa in 2010, 2011, twice in 2014 and once in 2016, all during Joe Biden’s service as President Obama’s Vice President. Two of Dr. Biden’s trips were with the then-Vice President.
In her memoir “Where the Light Enters,” Biden wrote about going to the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2014 (see photo) with her then-14-year-old granddaughter, Finnegan, and then continuing to be “haunted” by the stories of women and girls who’d been hospitalized after being gang raped by soldiers.
During her five-day sojourn to Namibia and Kenya, Biden will focus on a number of topics, including empowering women and young people, food insecurity in the Horn of Africa caused by a devastating drought, and Russia’s war in Ukraine.
On Tuesday during his speech in Poland, President Biden had noted that the First Lady would be traveling to Africa this week to address the “critical issue” of hunger—particularly that exacerbated by Russia’s military blockades in the Black Sea during its past year of war.
Africa is the youngest and fastest-growing region in the world, according to the White House. Administration officials say 1 of every 4 people in the world will be African by 2050.