U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken ended his three-nation African tour on Saturday with a stop in the West African nation of Senegal. There, as he did in Kenya in the East and Nigeria in the West, he told them about themselves; why they are so unique and great, and why the relationship with the United States has continued to strengthen over the past decades and will become even stronger under the administration of President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Then, he told them about a Senegalese concept known as ‘teraanga’.
In Senegal, a French speaking country where his words were interpreted for the audience to follow, he told President Macky sall and other Senegalese leaders that the concept known as ‘teraanga‘ or hospitality based on openness and respect says a lot about Senegal.
“I’ve been told about the Senegalese concept of teraanga,” Blinken said at a joint press availability event in Dakar with Senegalese Foreign Minister Aïssata Tall Sall. “We spoke about that last night. And as I understand it, roughly translated it’s hospitality based on openness and respect. And it’s a cherished national value and it says a lot about Senegal. And I’ve seen it in practice these last 24 hours.”
Blinken continued, “This is a place where people of different religions, languages, and cultures are united as one nation. And it’s a place where people from around the world are treated with incredible warmth and made to feel at home. And I’m very much evidence of that; I can testify to that directly. So I thank you.
“I’ve experienced teraanga here in Dakar. I thank the president, the foreign minister, our colleagues, and all the people that I’ve had a chance to interact with for making this trip already so memorable.”
In Senegal, Blinken joined four American companies signing agreements to collaborate with the Senegalese Government on new infrastructure projects and announced a new $14.8 million program with USAID to help young people and women in Senegal get access to business development and financing.
“The entrepreneurial spirit here in Senegal is undeniable. I saw it this morning when we met the group of local women entrepreneurs. It’s palpable and we want to do what we can in partnership to support that,” Blinken said.
Blinken then went straight into the relationship between the United States and Africa and the Biden administration policy towards the continent, saying, “When it comes to urgent global challenges and also opportunities, from ending COVID-19 pandemic to building a strong and inclusive global economy, to combating the climate crisis or revitalizing democracy and defending human rights, there’s a simple reality: We will not succeed without the leadership of African governments, institutions, and citizens.”
He said the United States is committed to strengthening its partnership across the continent “in ways that serve the interests of people here, serve our own interests, and I think the interests of people not just across the continent, but ultimately across the world because of the impact that increasingly Africa is having and will have on the world, including beyond the continent – a world in which lives and futures will be shaped in part by what our countries are able to do together.”
Blinken asserted that Senegal and the United States have been friends for six decades “– 60 years of diplomatic relations, 60 years of building on the common foundation that we have of democracy.”
Blinken added, “Senegal is a democracy, an engine of economic growth in West Africa, a leader in African institutions, a contributor to international peacekeeping efforts. And we deeply value the partnership between our countries, but we want to take it to a new level of ambition, mutuality, and effectiveness. And that’s what we’ve been talking about since we’ve been here.
“And in that spirit, the foreign minister and I have had very productive discussions on virtually all of the critical issues before us. We talked about our shared goal of ending COVID-19. I underscored the commitment of the United States to provide COVID vaccines to the world. This week we hit a milestone: 250 million doses of vaccine delivered worldwide. By next spring, that number will be more than 1 billion vaccines donated by the United States, primarily through COVAX, with no strings attached.
“We’ve provided more than 50 million doses to 43 African countries, including more than a million doses here in Senegal, and we’re significantly ramping up our vaccine manufacturing capacity to meet the global need. We’re also committed to helping and working closely with Senegal to increase the capacity to produce vaccine here in Senegal as well as in other parts of Africa, because increasing global production capacity makes it easier to distribute vaccines and save lives.
“Even as we work through COVID-19, we know that in all likelihood there will be something else, another pandemic in the future. We have to find ways and we are finding ways working together to build back better here as well, to have a strong global health security system so that we can prevent – and if not prevent, much more effectively and quickly mitigate – any future outbreaks of pandemic.
“I’m going to visit shortly the Institut Pasteur de Dakar, which is working toward COVID vaccine production with American support, including an investment so far of over $3 million from our Development Finance Corporation.
“The foreign minister and I also discussed how to repair the economic damage of the pandemic and build back better – conversations I also had with the minister of the economy – and to build it in a way that we have a more inclusive global economy. Senegal and the United States are growing our economic ties. Air Senegal now has a direct flight to New York. A few months ago, that was established. More American companies are doing business here than ever before, right now about 50, but that is growing, and I am convinced it will grow even stronger in the months and years ahead.
“Just this morning I joined four American companies signing agreements to collaborate with the Senegalese Government on new infrastructure projects. We want to inspire a race to the top for global infrastructure, to close the infrastructure gap, while also creating local jobs, protecting workers and the environment, reducing corruption, and avoiding saddling countries with unmanageable debt.
“I also announced a new $14.8 million program with USAID to help young people and women in Senegal get access to business development and financing, because the entrepreneurial spirit here in Senegal is undeniable. I saw it this morning when we met the group of local women entrepreneurs. It’s palpable and we want to do what we can in partnership to support that.
“I also talked with the minister, the president as well, about Senegal’s leadership on climate and underscored our support for its renewable energy goals and our commitment to the international financing for climate adaptation and resilience. And as the minister said, we spoke about democracy and human rights and how we can work together to strengthen our own democracies, but also together respond to some of the democratic backsliding that we’re seeing not only in parts of Africa but in many parts of the world. As one of the continent’s most stable democracies, Senegal can model how democratic values, good governance, and the rule of law actually pay off for citizens in concrete ways, including a resilient and inclusive economy and a peaceful, pluralistic society.
“Given Senegal’s role, leadership role in the African Union – it will chair it next year – in ECOWAS, and as the current co-chair of the Friends of the Gulf of Guinea, Senegal is very well positioned to help lead progress on democracy and security in West Africa, and indeed, across the continent.
“We talked about the crises of Ethiopia and Sudan and the importance of representative governance. Let me just say quickly, in Ethiopia, intensive diplomacy is ongoing with leadership from the African Union and its high representative, former Nigerian President Obasanjo, supported by the United States, including through engagement by our Special Envoy Jeff Feltman, who’s in Addis as we speak. We continue to push for an immediate end to hostilities without preconditions, and humanitarian access for the millions of people in northern Ethiopia who need lifesaving aid. And we continue to urge Americans to avail themselves of commercial flights out of the country, and we’re providing assistance to them to do so.
“With regard to Sudan, we deplore the violence that we’ve seen from the security forces in recent days. That has to end. The right of the Sudanese people to protest peacefully must be protected. And we join the people of Sudan in urging the restoration of Prime Minister Hamdok and his civilian transitional government, and the release of everyone who’s been arrested for expressing opposition to the military takeover. The foreign minister and I agreed on the need to return to democratically elected government in Mali by the date set by ECOWAS, and for a timely transition to democracy in Guinea and Chad. And we reaffirmed a shared commitment to human rights, which is the foundation of stability and progress in all of our countries.
“In a few hours, my team and I will head back to Washington. This week in Kenya, in Nigeria, and in Senegal, we’ve had remarkably productive meetings, remarkably productive engagements. And for me, at least, these are not only meaningful, they’re also quite memorable. I’ve been looking forward to this trip since I took on this job, and it hasn’t disappointed.
“Our commitment to strengthen partnerships across Africa is central to our foreign policy because we know that the leadership of countries, institutions, and again, most importantly, people across this continent will be critical to whether we can meet the challenges that face us in our time as well as the opportunities before us. And as I said in Nigeria yesterday, we firmly believe that it is long past time to start treating African countries and institutions as the major geopolitical players that they’ve become. And the trip that I took this week reflects that conviction.
“And I’m already looking ahead to when I can come back to Africa and continue to build on the work that we’ve done, although I think we’re going to be doing that every single day between our teams. So thank you, Madam Minister, for your partnership. And thank you to the people of Senegal for your friendship with the United States over 60 years, and I think we’re going make the next 60 even better.”