Blinken looks to show Africa commitment as crises call out

November 16, 2021 / 10:39 AM
Antony Blinken boards his plane at Andrews Air Force Base beginning a five day trip to Kenya, Nigeria, and Senegal
Sharjah24 – AFP: Antony Blinken was heading Tuesday on his first trip as secretary of state to sub-Saharan Africa, hoping to demonstrate a broad commitment focused on democracy and climate change even as crises in Ethiopia and Sudan put security front and centre.
The top US diplomat will travel through Saturday to three countries seen as key to President Joe Biden's Africa strategy -– first Kenya, one of America's most longstanding allies in a region where China has made inroads, followed by Nigeria, the continent's most populous nation, and then Senegal, a beacon of democratic stability.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the last inhabited region to be visited by Blinken, whose travels in the early months were rattled by Covid-19 precautions and the US exit from Afghanistan, although he has been in virtual contact and Biden has welcomed Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to the White House.

Blinken is eager to draw a distinction with previous president Donald Trump, who made no secret of his lack of interest in Africa, becoming the only president in decades not to visit and disparaging African immigrants.

The visit comes weeks before Biden convenes a summit of democracies in Washington and on the heels of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, where the Biden administration joined calls to move away from polluting fossil fuels.

"The focus on revitalisation of democracies as well as climate change and sustainable development underscores the current approach" on Africa, senior State Department official Ervin Massinga said.

Massinga said Blinken would also discuss boosting African capacities to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines -- a major push in which Biden is hoping to draw a distinction with China, which has assertively promoted its own vaccines.

November 16, 2021 / 10:39 AM

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