U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken’s trip to Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal last week was ‘productive’, ‘constructive’ and ‘excellent’, the State Department said on Monday.
“As you know, as you alluded to, the Secretary did return from his first travel to sub-Saharan Africa – I suppose it was late Saturday night, early Sunday morning by the time we got back. And it really was a productive, a constructive, an excellent trip to all three countries,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at a news conference in Washington when asked to characterize the trip.
“The Secretary just returned from his first official visit to sub-Saharan Africa. He was in Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal. He said really great things about those countries – jollof rice in Nigeria, teraanga hospitality in Senegal. I was wondering if you can go back to that trip and give us the key agreements, achievement. And also, in his discussion with President Kenyatta, Buhari, and so on, what was the feedback like? Do they believe America is really back, diplomacy is really back? And was the Secretary given a new name and a traditional title in Nigeria?” Today News Africa’s Simon Ateba asked Price.
Price said, “You had an opportunity to hear from the Secretary in each stop in the context of his bilateral engagements, in the context of his civil society engagements, in the context of his press conferences with his counterparts, of the broad agenda that we share not only with these three African countries but with many countries across the continent more broadly. And in each stop, you heard an emphasis on the challenges that, if we are going to be in a position to solve, we have to work on together, including with the countries of Africa. And of course, on that list are issues like climate, issues like COVID. It is achieving a sustainable global economic recovery, including for these three countries and for the broader continent, countries that in some cases, like many countries around the world, whose economic growth has been stunted by the onset of COVID-19.
“We also share a number of interests with these countries – security interests. Our economic ties, in many cases, are quite deep and have the potential to become even deeper. And in all three, we discussed the values that need to be at the core of these relationships, including human rights, democratic governance. These are three countries that, in a couple cases, will have elections within the next two or so years, and both have before been a model for the rest of the continent and beyond, and again, have the potential to be a model when it comes to democracy and democratic governance for the continent and well beyond.
“But this was a trip that was more than about just those three countries. We spoke to themes on this trip – again, climate change, COVID, shared security challenges, economic ties – that are broader than those three countries. And they’re themes that are transcontinental in their nature in that they apply equally to many countries across the continent. And in Abuja, the Secretary laid out in a speech, an extended set of remarks at ECOWAS, an important regional institution, the approach we take to the continent. And that is one of partnership, of true partnership, and he explained at some length what that true partnership means.
“Final points on this: We often think of and talk about partnership in the bilateral context or in the regional context, government-to-government partnerships. But our relationships with these three countries, with many countries across Africa, transcend the official relationships. And there are people-to-people ties that are really at the heart of many of these relationships, and that is why this administration and previous administrations have invested so heavily in the human capital across Africa with programs like the Young African Leaders Initiative, or YALI.
“While he was in these countries, the Secretary had an opportunity to meet with several YALI alums to hear about their tremendous successes in using the skills, using the connections, taking advantage of the experiences that they had in YALI or other IVLP programs, taking those back to their home countries and really being leaders in their own right to help shape, to help craft the more secure, more prosperous future that the United States seeks to partner with these countries and with the continent at large to achieve.”
On the whether the Secretary was given a new name or a traditional title in Nigeria, Price said, “I am actually not aware that a traditional name was bestowed, but if one was, I’ll follow up with you on that.”
Price also commented on the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit President Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced last week that he will be hosting next year. He was asked to provide more details on the summit and when it will take place.
“In terms of the U.S-Africa Leaders Summit, the Secretary announced this in his speech in Abuja, and what he said, what he spoke to was President Biden’s intention next year to convene a summit with the leaders of our African partners,” Price said. “This is something that the Obama-Biden administration did in 2014 – in August of 2014. As I recall, it was an opportunity to bring to Washington dozens of heads of state, heads of government, to deepen at the time our cooperation on the sets of issues that were most relevant then. We are now some seven years, we will be perhaps closer to eight years, removed from that opportunity to bring to the United States many heads of state in government from Africa. So there are in some ways old challenges, traditional challenges that remain, but in many ways new challenges that confront us. And the leaders summit that the President intends to convene next year will be an opportunity to address those issues as well. I know it’s something the Secretary looks forward to and the President as well.”
A date has not been announced formally yet.