Namibia: Jill Biden Highlights Empowering Women, Children On Second Day in Namibia

Windhoek, Namibia — U.S. first lady Jill Biden is due to speak Thursday at a state luncheon with Namibia’s President Hage Geingob and first lady Monica Geingos at the Namibian presidential residence, the second day of her visit to the country.

Biden is also due to go Thursday to a U.S.-funded project in the capital, Windhoek, that focuses on empowering women and children and ensuring access to economic opportunities and health resources.

After arriving in the country on Wednesday, Biden said Namibia was chosen because of its vibrancy.

“We wanted to come because you know this is a young democracy, and we want to support democracies around the world,” Biden said. “We met each other in December, and we’re just continuing the relationship. Monica and I think it’s safe to say that we became good friends instantly.”

Geingos said there was a lot in Namibia she would like to show Biden, who is making the first visit to the country by an incumbent first lady.

“It is a very vibrant democracy. We’ve got a very large youth population, who drives that democracy, very energetic and fully enabled by our constitutional values but also by the personal values of our leadership,” Geingos said.

Jill Biden is the first White House official to visit the country after President Joe Biden last year pledged to send administration officials to the continent. She follows Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who visited earlier this year.

Like Biden, Thomas-Greenfield focused part of her visit around a food security crisis in East Africa — something Biden plans to highlight when she visits Kenya later this week. But these high-profile visits are also happening against the background of increased visits by top-level Russian and Chinese officials to the continent.

While the nation is a multiparty democracy, the same party — Geingob’s South West Africa People’s Organization — has led since the nation won independence more than three decades ago. And that liberation struggle pulled in other countries for support. Earlier Wednesday, Biden laid a wreath at Heroes’ Acre, a memorial to those who fought for the nation’s independence.

That memorial, with its brutalist sculpture and wide expanses of stone, bears an uncanny similarity to the Heroes’ Acre in Zimbabwe’s capital, maybe because both memorials were built by the same North Korean company. That same firm built the imposing, modernist gray cement State House where Biden was so warmly, colorfully received by the first couple.

Jill Biden heads Friday to Kenya, where she will use her popularity and platform to draw attention to women’s empowerment, children’s issues and the hunger crisis that is again ravaging the Horn of Africa.