United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has arrived in Senegal where he will be concluding his three-nation African tour that took him from Kenya in the East to Nigeria and Senegal in the West.
Blinken met with President Macky Sall and Foreign Minister Aïssata Tall Sall to reaffirm the close partnership between the United States and the West African nation.
“Given President Sall’s upcoming African Union chairmanship, Secretary Blinken looks forward to discussing regional issues and shared values,” the State Department said last week. “The Secretary will engage in events that highlight America’s strong commercial relationship with Senegal, amplify the role of female Senegalese entrepreneurs, and showcase the U.S. partnership to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.”
On Saturday, Blinken said he witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Senegal and the United States worth more than $1 billion.
“Delighted to witness the signing of MOUs with Econ Minister @AmadouHott marking more than $1 billion in U.S. investments in Senegal. Today’s commitments are examples of how the #BuildBackBetter World Initiative and @ProsperAfricaUS deliver for the people of America and Senegal,” Blinken said in a tweet.
“Had an energizing conversation with female Senegalese entrepreneurs today. This dynamic and talented group of changemakers is helping to ensure that gender parity is at the forefront of the economic and technological opportunities across Senegal,” he added.
At a Women’s Economic and Digital Roundtable held at Radisson Blu in Dakar with U.S. Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau Tulinabo S. Mushingi and Senegalese Economy Minister Amadou Hott in attendance, Blinken lauded Senegal for undeniable accomplishments in the areas of equity and equality between men and women, noting, however, that much more needs to be done.
“We cannot deny the fact that Senegal has accomplished a lot of progress in terms of equity and equality,” Blinken said. “Girls and boys now attend primary school at nearly equal levels. The national legislature is on its way to gender parity, which is way ahead of the U.S. But as you know more than anyone, there remains much to do.”
Blinken asserted that the coronavirus pandemic has cast light on structural barriers that continue to hold Senegalese women back, “like unequal access to land ownership, financing, cell phones, internet, all of which make it harder for women to start their own businesses, to earn a living, and to support their families.”
“Unfortunately, these challenges are nothing new and they’re not unique to Senegal – everywhere in the world, including in the U.S. – and those obstacles are countless. When we ensure that everybody has access to the same opportunities, that’s a good thing for economies and societies. Empowering women and girls unlocks enormous potential, and we know this through our experience,” Blinken said. “For a country like Senegal, which saw an explosive economic growth in the years before the pandemic, ensuring women’s economic empowerment is a powerful tool to help build back faster and more robustly. Moreover, it’s simply the right thing to do. Treating women and girls as second-class citizens is deeply unjust, and this is something that needs to end throughout the world.”
He said the U.S. is committed to a future where every Senegalese woman and girl has the opportunity to fully realize her potential.
“We’re supporting programs, such as activities by USAID, for entrepreneurship investment, which expands financing options for women entrepreneurs. We’re deepening people-to-people ties between our countries through programs such as the YALI Initiative and the International Visitor Leadership Program, IVLP, which is represented here by many alumnae,” he said.
Blinken added, “You are all the embodiment of what happens when a society is able to unlock all of its talents. You’re entrepreneurs. You’re bringing sustainably farmed foods from rural supply to urban demand. You’re government officials who are building your country’s cyber security capabilities. You’re business leaders and you’re powering, single handedly, Senegal’s clean energy transition. And you’re providing low-income families with access to credit and you’re increasing access to remote education for women and girls.”