Antony Blinken: My takeaways from my first African trip as Secretary of State and why Africa is indispensable

Asked to elaborate on the partnership between the United States and Africa on the economic front, Blinken cited the example of Africa's enormous infrastructure need.

Antony J. Blinken has reflected on his first trip to Sub-Saharan Africa as Secretary of State that took him all the way from Kenya in the East to Nigeria and Senegal in the West.

“I’m left with the idea that we have the need and the opportunity to strengthen our relations. The partnership between the United States and Africa. Not only should we strengthen it but also to renew it, and have a real partnership,” Blinken said during an interview with Alassane Samba Diop and Mamadou Ibra Kane of E-Media Group at the United States Embassy in Dakar, Senegal, on November 20, 2021. “Because when we think about the big issues that we face before us, whether climate , or the pandemic, or building inclusive economies for everyone, or defending democracy, we can’t do it without Africa.”

Blinken asserted that in 25 or 30 years, one in four people on our planet will be from Africa.  “Africa is indispensable. And Senegal is a key partner for the United States because we have the same values. We have the desire to work together. And I’m going back to Washington, with great enthusiasm to build these partnerships for the future because I know it’s good for the United States and I believe it’s good for Africans as well, and either way we must find ways to support each other and move forward together,” Blinken said.

Asked to elaborate on the partnership between the United States and Africa on the economic front, Blinken cited the example of Africa’s enormous infrastructure need.

It starts with this,” Blinken said. “Because there is a need for infrastructure around the world, especially in Africa.”

He added,  “Enormous amounts of money are needed to do this, but it’s not just the resources that you devote to it that matter, it’s how you use them. And for us, it is very important that the people who benefit first are the people on the ground in the country in question and not others. 

“It’s important that these investments are made in a way that benefits the local community, that the country in question, our partners, are not in debt and in a situation where in the future it is impossible to repay this debt.  It’s important that we move forward with regard to the environment, the rights of workers, and that we make things that will last, things of good quality.  And above all, that investments are not only in what we call “hardware,” but also in “software” – in human beings and especially in the exchange of knowledge and abilities.  Because the goal, in fact, is ultimately that the problems and opportunities in Africa are to be resolved first by Africans and for that we need not only a sharing of infrastructure but also of knowledge.  That’s true partnership.”

On climate change, Blinken said “there’s a fight that the world has to carry out together because if we don’t make sure that temperatures don’t rise above 1.5 degrees we have a catastrophe ahead of us.  You already have consequences.  So that’s one thing.  At the same time, we must accelerate the use of renewable energy, however it is a transition.  It can’t be done overnight.  We understand that in some countries, some partners, some situations, this transition will require the use of methods other than renewables, for a period of time, before this transition can be done. “

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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