(Bloomberg) -- Prominent technology and finance industry leaders descended on Washington for a state dinner honoring President William Ruto of Kenya, a lavish and glitzy affair to spotlight President Joe Biden’s efforts to strengthen US economic ties with Africa and counter Chinese and Russian influence across the continent.

Ruto’s state dinner is the first for an African leader in 16 years, with a guest list highlighting the administration’s outreach efforts to Africa and push to ramp up US investment in the region. Prominent tech industry leaders attending the opulent dinner included Brad Smith, the president of Microsoft Corp.; Ruth Porat, president and chief financial officer of Alphabet Inc.; former Meta Platforms Inc. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Ursula Burns of Teneo.

Ruto’s visit has been focused on securing private investment in his country. On Wednesday, he met with Porat and Burns for a discussion on ways to strengthen cooperation in the tech sphere.

Attendees were treated to a three-course meal that included chilled heirloom tomato soup, beef short rib and butter-poached lobster, and a white chocolate basket for dessert. The courses were paired with wines from California and Oregon. 

Guests dined surrounded by American roses, fuchsia and purple African orchids in the pavilion on the South Lawn of the White House. They were entertained by the Howard Gospel Choir and Grammy Award-winning country music artist Brad Paisley — selections intended to celebrate Ruto and wife Rachel Ruto’s love of gospel and country music.

Former President Bill Clinton was in attendance, joined by former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Also receiving coveted invitations were David Bonderman of private equity firm TPG Capital along with Pfizer Inc. Chairman Albert Bourla, and Walmart Inc. CEO Doug McMillon. From the sports world, commissioners Roger Goodell of the National Football League and Adam Silver of the National Basketball Association, Eric H. Baker, the co-founder of Stubhub Inc., and Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri received invitations.

Additional attendees included notable civil rights leaders Reverend Al Sharpton and Janai Nelson, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, as well as prominent philanthropist Melinda French Gates.

Africa is increasingly becoming a focal point of the economic competition between the US and China as the world’s two largest economies jockey for access to critical minerals. Biden has cast Washington as a better partner for African countries seeking investment, criticizing Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative as saddling developing countries with billions in debt. 

The US laid out a broad outline for helping poor countries ease mounting debt burdens — dubbed the Nairobi-Washington Vision — and called on sovereign creditors like China to stop draining funds away from such countries, moves Washington says will free up financing for investments in critical sectors like climate adaptation. 

Read more: US Calls on Lenders to Stop Draining Funds From Poor Countries

The US also announced it’s proposing to make Kenya the first country in Africa to benefit from funding in the Chips and Science Act, according to White House officials. The administration also intends to work with Congress to commit $1 million in assistance for Kenya to support assembly, testing and packaging in the semiconductor sector.

Google on Thursday said it is building out the first undersea fiber optic cable that will directly connect Africa with Australia, shoring up internet access in one of the least-connected parts of the world. Microsoft also said this week it plans to build a $1 billion geothermal-powered data center in Kenya, part of a multi-year plan to dramatically increase cloud-computing capacity in East Africa. 

Leaders in the region have long complained of US neglect, a situation Biden has said he is committed to reversing, even as other nations beyond Russia and China also move to fill the vacuum, complicating US efforts. 

Among the celebrities at the dinner are actors Sean Penn; Reading Rainbow and Star Trek: The Next Generation star LeVar Burton, and Wilmer Valderrama of That ‘70s Show. Also attending from the media world were Lester Holt of NBC News and author Barbara Kingsolver.

Thursday’s dinner is the sixth of Biden’s presidency. Last month, Biden honored Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

(Updates with details of Nairobi-Washington Vision on debt in sixth-last paragraph)

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