- Mali, Burkina Faso, Sudan and Guinea are the only African countries not invited to the summit.
- Zimbabwe has been invited for the first time, but its president can't attend because of travel restrictions.
- The US says it is seeking to engage in a mutually respectful manner.
The United States will host 49 African heads of state, and the African Union envoy, in Washington for a three-day US-Africa Summit between 13-15 December.
The US views this as an opportunity to strengthen ties with Africa.
However, four countries have not been invited - Mali, Burkina Faso, Sudan, and Guinea.
There will be side events and meetings for civil society and business leaders from Africa to engage with the Americans.
It is the second such summit under US President Joe Biden's administration, with the inaugural one hosted around the same time last year.
The summit gets underway with an advantage after the Russia-Africa version didn't materialise.
The US and Russia view each other as rivals in their approach to Africa and the war in Ukraine made matters tense.
The US Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs' deputy assistant secretary, Robert Scott, and the special assistant to the president and National Security Council senior advisor for the US-Africa Leaders Summit, Dana Banks, spoke to a group of African journalists about the upcoming summit.
Africa's voting patterns at the UN General Assembly on the war in Ukraine were an indicator of the continent's interests, she added.
For the US, it had been a wake-up call because the continent hadn't condemned Russia outright.
As such, Banks said the summit would consider that "Africa is a key geopolitical player, one that is shaping our present and will shape our future".
The US would look to "engage in a mutually respectful manner and one that really highlights and strengthens our shared priorities".
Mali, Burkina Faso, Sudan, and Guinea are the only African countries not invited to the summit.
However, civil society organisations from those nations will attend.
"We do have plans to incorporate members of their civil societies and their communities in the dialogue and in the conversation in the civil society forum and perhaps in some other engagements that are planned," Banks said.
Mali, Burkina Faso, Sudan, and Guinea are serving suspensions because of the illegal transfer of power through coups.
Zimbabwe, which was snubbed last year, was invited to the summit, but President Emmerson Mnangagwa is unable to attend because of travel restrictions.
Instead, Foreign Affairs Minister Fredrick Shava, a former envoy to the UN in Washington, will make the trip.
According to Scott, there will be a series of forums – an African and Diaspora Young Leaders forum; a civil society forum; a peace, security and governance forum - on the first day.
"There will be discussions on climate, as well as on health."
The second day would be dedicated to the US-Africa Business Forum, and a full day of opportunities for African and US businesses to come together with delegations from the continent.
The third day, led by Biden, would be for heads of state and governments. Scott said this particular meeting would focus on democracy, human rights, and governance.
"The idea here is again to look at the linkages between democratic institutions and governance and how they impact long-term peace and prosperity.
"We will see our secretaries of state and defence and the administrator of the US Agency for International Development coming together with a set of African leaders to talk about these inter-linkages," he said.
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