February 2, 2023

The 2022 U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit was ‘a significant success’, Blinken says

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III meet with Angolan President João Lourenço in Washington, D.C. on December 13, 2022. [State Department photo by Freddie Everett/
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III meet with Angolan President João Lourenço in Washington, D.C. on December 13, 2022. [State Department photo by Freddie Everett/

United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Thursday described the 2022 U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit President Joseph R. Biden Jr. hosted in Washington DC December 13-15 as “a significant success.”

“I believe that the last three days were a significant success, but ultimately, the ultimate judgment has to be in the days to come, the weeks to come, the months to come, are we making good on what we said we would do?  I’m convinced that we will,” Blinken told reporters at a news conference at the end of the summit.

Blinken said that going forward, ties between the United States and Africa will focus on partnership and mutual respect, and not aide, adding that Washington will not dictate Africa’s choices.

“So our approach is about what America can do with African nations and people, not for them. And that’s what this summit, the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, has really been all about,” he said.

He added, “America will not dictate Africa’s choices. Neither should anyone else. The right to make these choices belongs to Africans and Africans alone. But we will work relentlessly to expand their choices, and the agreements and investments we made this week showed that when African governments, businesses, and communities are offered the choice to partner with the United States, they will take it.”

Blinken also summed up some of the deliverables from the summit in several areas, including trade, infrastructure development and diplomacy.

He said, “So let me just take a minute to sum up and highlight a few of those key areas that have come out of the summit.  But let me start by saying the bottom line is this:  We made significant, tangible progress across every one of our priorities this week, building on the momentum that we’ve generated over the past two years.  We committed to ensuring African countries have a prominent seat at the table.  Wherever consequential decisions are being made, consequential issues discussed, we’ve delivered on that.  At the United Nations General Assembly in September, you heard President Biden express support for adding a permanent member from Africa to the UN Security Council.  And this week the President announced support for the Africa Union to join the G20 as a permanent member.

“In our strategy, we also committed to expanding broad-based economic opportunity in Africa in part by mobilizing the unmatched power of the American private sector.  If you go back to 2021, our government has helped close more than 800 two-way trade and investment deals across 47 African countries worth $18 billion.  During the summit just this week, President Biden announced more than $15 billion in new deals.   At the U.S.-African Business Forum, we brought together leaders from over 300 American and African companies with the heads of the 50 delegations, fostering new connections that will create even more opportunity.

“Seizing 21st century opportunities requires digital connectivity. This is vital to the free flow of ideas, information, investment.  That’s why the President announced our plan to work with Congress to invest more than $350 million toward a new initiative on digital transformation with Africa.

“Too often, international infrastructure and trade deals are opaque.  They’re coercive.  They lead to projects that are environmentally destructive, poorly built, that import or abuse workers, that foster corruption and burden countries with unmanageable debt.  We have a different approach.  We offer investments that are transparent, high-quality, and sustainable for the planet.  We empower local communities.  We respect the rights of their people.  We listen to their people, to their needs.

“America will not dictate Africa’s choices.  Neither should anyone else. The right to make these choices belongs to Africans and Africans alone.  But we will work relentlessly to expand their choices, and the agreements and investments we made this week showed that when African governments, businesses, and communities are offered the choice to partner with the United States, they will take it.

“The U.S. Strategy for Africa also committed us to help our partners recover from the devastation wrought by COVID-19 and the unprecedented global food security crisis.  African countries have consistently made clear that as much as emergency assistance – in fact, even more than emergency assistance – what they want is to strengthen African capabilities, institutions, technology, supply chains, and industries so that they’re more resilient in the face of future shocks, and together we are building that very resilience.

“On health security, we’ve provided 231 million doses of safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines to African countries free of charge.  At the summit, President Biden committed to investing at least $4 billion by 2025 to help African countries train and equip health care workers to meet citizens’ needs.  We’re also expanding the capacity of African countries to manufacture vaccines, tests, and therapeutics in Africa for Africans, and indeed, for the world beyond.

“On food insecurity, we’ve provided more than $11 billion over the last year to address global hunger and improve nutrition.  Much of this assistance has gone to African countries, which have been disproportionately impacted by the drivers of hunger – COVID, climate, and conflict, and by President Putin’s war on Ukraine, which has made a serious crisis much worse.  We’re making unprecedented investments to help African countries fulfill their goal of not only being able to feed their own people but those around the world.  Sixteen of the 20 partners in the Feed the Future program, our flagship program to reduce malnutrition and increase food security, are in Africa, where innovations like high-yield, high-nutrition crops that can endure extreme weather are putting communities on the path to greater resilience.

“Now, we know that the climate crisis is a major driver of increased food insecurity and the spread of deadly viruses.  It’s exacerbating tensions that can spark and spread deadly conflict.  Yet as the President often points out, once-in-a-generation’s opportunity to create good paying jobs for the future.  That’s why we committed to foster a just energy transition that can both meet the region’s need for more reliable, affordable energy and, at the same time, create opportunities for businesses and workers in African countries and the United States as well.

“Since January of 2021, we’ve dedicated massive resources toward this very goal – solar energy in Angola, wind power in Kenya, hydro-solar energy in Ghana, and a new 100 million project that the President announced to expand off-grid access to solar energy; and that’s just to name a few of the initiatives and projects that we’re working on.  We’re deepening the resilience of African communities to a changing climate through a $150 million adaptation fund, and this is critical, and you’ve heard the President talk about this.  We have a responsibility in the United States as, historically, the largest emitter in the world – and now still the number two emitter after China – to help countries adapt, to help them build resilience.

“And we are putting the resources, we’re putting the technology, we’re putting the technical know-how, into doing that and sharing it with our partners.  We’re teaming up with governments and NGOs to incentivize the protection of irreplaceable natural resources like the Congo Basin rainforest, which absorbs more carbon than is emitted by the entire continent of Africa.  Finally, we committed to work with African partners to fulfill the promise of democracy.  That includes helping strengthen its core pillars – the rule of law, human rights, a free press – as well as addressing some of the root causes of insecurity, which undermines the ability of democracies to actually deliver for their people.

“Yesterday President Biden hosted a small group of leaders to discuss how we can help support free, fair, and credible elections in 2023 like the ones we saw in several places this year, including Kenya.  As part of that discussion, the president pledged to work with Congress to provide over $165 million to support elections and good governance in Africa in the coming year.  These will be key themes of the second Summit for Democracy coming up in March, where Zambia will be one of our co-hosts.

“Where there are crises and conflicts, we are supporting the African leaders, the regional institutions, and citizens who are stepping up to find diplomatic solutions.  That’s what we’ve demonstrated over the last year through our diplomatic engagement in places like Chad, Ethiopia, Sudan, and eastern DRC.  We know African countries face real security concerns, including terrorism and transnational organized crime.  The message we sent this week is that African nations can continue to count on the United States as a partner in building more effective and accountable security forces.

“So if you’re keeping score – and I couldn’t cover everything – there are a lot of commitments there.  And we know that commitments are only as good as our ability to deliver on them.  That’s why we asked one of our most experienced senior diplomats, Ambassador Johnnie Carson, to return to the State Department as our special representative for the U.S-Africa Leaders Summit implementation.  With nearly four decades of experience as a diplomat, deep relationships across the region, I can think of no one better to ensure that our words are actually translated into action.

“Across every single one of our priorities, civil society will play a critically important role, and in particular, youth.  Today the median age in Africa is 19 years old.  By 2032, two in five people on this planet will be African.  And the choices that rising generations make will shape the future not just for Africa but for the entire world.  That’s why we’re investing more in Africa’s emerging leaders, more than ever before.  The Vice President announced that we plan to devote an additional $1.1 billion over the next three years to youth programs like the Mandela Washington Fellows, a number of whom took part in this summit, and, of course, the YALI Network, which provides tools, resources, and a virtual community for now more than 700,000 rising leaders across the continent.

“Of course, a big part of that is investing in women and girls because we know that when they have the opportunity to reach their full potential, when they’re empowered to lead in business and government and communities and families, all of society benefits.

“The very first gathering that I took part in this week was a meeting of rising African innovators and entrepreneurs.  The energy, the ingenuity of this group, its eagerness to turn so many of the problems that we face into opportunities, and to do so in partnership with the United States, is truly inspiring.  It’s impossible to feel cynical in their presence because they’re so energized. They’re so committed to serving their communities.  They are so full of good ideas.  And that kind of sums up the way that we feel coming out of this summit.

“As the President said yesterday, we’re all in on Africa’s future because we know that the future of African nations and the United States is a shared one.  And in what the President’s called a decisive decade, that partnership is more vital than ever.”

Read full remarks by Secretary Antony J. Blinken at a Press Availability at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.

12/15/202

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, good evening, everyone.  Good to see you all.  So earlier this year in South Africa, I had an opportunity to set out the administration’s Strategy for Africa.  And at its core, it really can be distilled to a single word, and that word is partnership.  The reality is that the United States and African nations cannot deliver on any of the fundamental aspirations of our people – we can’t solve any of the big challenges that we face – if we don’t work together.  So our approach is about what America can do with African nations and people, not for them.  And that’s what this summit, the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, has really been all about.

We took full advantage of having so many leaders from African governments, businesses, civil society here in Washington to strengthen these partnerships, as was demonstrated, I think, by the robust engagement from President Biden, Vice President Harris, and a large number of our Cabinet secretaries throughout the course of the week.  And as you’ve heard, we’re putting considerable new resources toward advancing our shared priorities, $55 billion over the next three years alone.

So let me just take a minute to sum up and highlight a few of those key areas that have come out of the summit.  But let me start by saying the bottom line is this:  We made significant, tangible progress across every one of our priorities this week, building on the momentum that we’ve generated over the past two years.  We committed to ensuring African countries have a prominent seat at the table.  Wherever consequential decisions are being made, consequential issues discussed, we’ve delivered on that.  At the United Nations General Assembly in September, you heard President Biden express support for adding a permanent member from Africa to the UN Security Council.  And this week the President announced support for the Africa Union to join the G20 as a permanent member.

In our strategy, we also committed to expanding broad-based economic opportunity in Africa in part by mobilizing the unmatched power of the American private sector.  If you go back to 2021, our government has helped close more than 800 two-way trade and investment deals across 47 African countries worth $18 billion.  During the summit just this week, President Biden announced more than $15 billion in new deals.   At the U.S.-African Business Forum, we brought together leaders from over 300 American and African companies with the heads of the 50 delegations, fostering new connections that will create even more opportunity.

Seizing 21st century opportunities requires digital connectivity.  This is vital to the free flow of ideas, information, investment.  That’s why the President announced our plan to work with Congress to invest more than $350 million toward a new initiative on digital transformation with Africa.

Too often, international infrastructure and trade deals are opaque.  They’re coercive.  They lead to projects that are environmentally destructive, poorly built, that import or abuse workers, that foster corruption and burden countries with unmanageable debt.  We have a different approach.  We offer investments that are transparent, high-quality, and sustainable for the planet.  We empower local communities.  We respect the rights of their people.  We listen to their people, to their needs.

America will not dictate Africa’s choices.  Neither should anyone else.  The right to make these choices belongs to Africans and Africans alone.  But we will work relentlessly to expand their choices, and the agreements and investments we made this week showed that when African governments, businesses, and communities are offered the choice to partner with the United States, they will take it.

The U.S. Strategy for Africa also committed us to help our partners recover from the devastation wrought by COVID-19 and the unprecedented global food security crisis.  African countries have consistently made clear that as much as emergency assistance – in fact, even more than emergency assistance – what they want is to strengthen African capabilities, institutions, technology, supply chains, and industries so that they’re more resilient in the face of future shocks, and together we are building that very resilience.

On health security, we’ve provided 231 million doses of safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines to African countries free of charge.  At the summit, President Biden committed to investing at least $4 billion by 2025 to help African countries train and equip health care workers to meet citizens’ needs.  We’re also expanding the capacity of African countries to manufacture vaccines, tests, and therapeutics in Africa for Africans, and indeed, for the world beyond.

On food insecurity, we’ve provided more than $11 billion over the last year to address global hunger and improve nutrition.  Much of this assistance has gone to African countries, which have been disproportionately impacted by the drivers of hunger – COVID, climate, and conflict, and by President Putin’s war on Ukraine, which has made a serious crisis much worse.  We’re making unprecedented investments to help African countries fulfill their goal of not only being able to feed their own people but those around the world.  Sixteen of the 20 partners in the Feed the Future program, our flagship program to reduce malnutrition and increase food security, are in Africa, where innovations like high-yield, high-nutrition crops that can endure extreme weather are putting communities on the path to greater resilience.

Now, we know that the climate crisis is a major driver of increased food insecurity and the spread of deadly viruses.  It’s exacerbating tensions that can spark and spread deadly conflict.  Yet as the President often points out, once-in-a-generation’s opportunity to create good paying jobs for the future.  That’s why we committed to foster a just energy transition that can both meet the region’s need for more reliable, affordable energy and, at the same time, create opportunities for businesses and workers in African countries and the United States as well.

Since January of 2021, we’ve dedicated massive resources toward this very goal – solar energy in Angola, wind power in Kenya, hydro-solar energy in Ghana, and a new 100 million project that the President announced to expand off-grid access to solar energy; and that’s just to name a few of the initiatives and projects that we’re working on.  We’re deepening the resilience of African communities to a changing climate through a $150 million adaptation fund, and this is critical, and you’ve heard the President talk about this.  We have a responsibility in the United States as, historically, the largest emitter in the world – and now still the number two emitter after China – to help countries adapt, to help them build resilience.

And we are putting the resources, we’re putting the technology, we’re putting the technical know-how, into doing that and sharing it with our partners.  We’re teaming up with governments and NGOs to incentivize the protection of irreplaceable natural resources like the Congo Basin rainforest, which absorbs more carbon than is emitted by the entire continent of Africa.  Finally, we committed to work with African partners to fulfill the promise of democracy.  That includes helping strengthen its core pillars – the rule of law, human rights, a free press – as well as addressing some of the root causes of insecurity, which undermines the ability of democracies to actually deliver for their people.

Yesterday President Biden hosted a small group of leaders to discuss how we can help support free, fair, and credible elections in 2023 like the ones we saw in several places this year, including Kenya.  As part of that discussion, the president pledged to work with Congress to provide over $165 million to support elections and good governance in Africa in the coming year.  These will be key themes of the second Summit for Democracy coming up in March, where Zambia will be one of our co-hosts.

Where there are crises and conflicts, we are supporting the African leaders, the regional institutions, and citizens who are stepping up to find diplomatic solutions.  That’s what we’ve demonstrated over the last year through our diplomatic engagement in places like Chad, Ethiopia, Sudan, and eastern DRC.  We know African countries face real security concerns, including terrorism and transnational organized crime.  The message we sent this week is that African nations can continue to count on the United States as a partner in building more effective and accountable security forces.

So if you’re keeping score – and I couldn’t cover everything – there are a lot of commitments there.  And we know that commitments are only as good as our ability to deliver on them.  That’s why we asked one of our most experienced senior diplomats, Ambassador Johnnie Carson, to return to the State Department as our special representative for the U.S-Africa Leaders Summit implementation.  With nearly four decades of experience as a diplomat, deep relationships across the region, I can think of no one better to ensure that our words are actually translated into action.

Across every single one of our priorities, civil society will play a critically important role, and in particular, youth.  Today the median age in Africa is 19 years old.  By 2032, two in five people on this planet will be African.  And the choices that rising generations make will shape the future not just for Africa but for the entire world.  That’s why we’re investing more in Africa’s emerging leaders, more than ever before.  The Vice President announced that we plan to devote an additional $1.1 billion over the next three years to youth programs like the Mandela Washington Fellows, a number of whom took part in this summit, and, of course, the YALI Network, which provides tools, resources, and a virtual community for now more than 700,000 rising leaders across the continent.

Of course, a big part of that is investing in women and girls because we know that when they have the opportunity to reach their full potential, when they’re empowered to lead in business and government and communities and families, all of society benefits.

The very first gathering that I took part in this week was a meeting of rising African innovators and entrepreneurs.  The energy, the ingenuity of this group, its eagerness to turn so many of the problems that we face into opportunities, and to do so in partnership with the United States, is truly inspiring.  It’s impossible to feel cynical in their presence because they’re so energized. They’re so committed to serving their communities.  They are so full of good ideas.  And that kind of sums up the way that we feel coming out of this summit.

As the President said yesterday, we’re all in on Africa’s future because we know that the future of African nations and the United States is a shared one.  And in what the President’s called a decisive decade, that partnership is more vital than ever.

With that, happy to take some questions.  Thank you.

MR PRICE:  We’ll start with Shaun Tandon of the AFP, please.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Shaun, where are you?  There you are.

QUESTION:  (Laughter.)  Good to see you.  Could I just pursue in some more detail a couple of the security issues that you mentioned?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Sure.

QUESTION:  DRC:  You mentioned – you mentioned the DRC in your remarks.  You met with President Tshisekedi.  If not mistaken, you didn’t meet with President Kagame.  What was the reason for not meeting with him?  Does that indicate any sort of pessimism with controlling the M23 situation in the eastern DRC?

Ethiopia:  You did meet with Prime Minister Abiy.  How do you see the Pretoria agreement going forward?  The fact that you met with him, does that show that he – that Prime Minister Abiy is back in U.S. good graces?  Could there be discussion perhaps of renewing AGOA membership for Ethiopia?

And if I could just pursue AGOA a bit more broadly as well, you – the President talked about a U.S. MOU with the nascent free trade agreement of Africa.  What does that mean for AGOA?  I mean, should African leaders presume that AGOA is finished after 2025?  Thanks.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Great.  Shaun, thank you very much.  Let me say this a little bit more broadly before addressing the specific conflicts that you point to.  As I said a moment ago, the approach that we’ve taken – actually from day one of this administration – has been to support and empower African-led solutions to challenges the continent faces, including the conflicts that you’ve alluded to.

And from day one – whether it’s Ethiopia, eastern DRC, Somalia, Sudan – the State Department has been deeply engaged and we’ve lent our support, our assistance to the African Union, to the EAC, to other regional groupings, to individual countries to try to help solve these challenges.  That’s been the approach we’ve taken.  We believe that whenever and wherever we can find African-led solutions to these challenges, we’re going to be better off, they’re going to be more sustainable.  And I’m proud to say that our diplomats have played, I believe, important roles in helping to move some of these forward.

So with regard to Rwanda and the DRC, first of all, I spoke to President Kagame on the phone just before the summit and we had a good conversation, just as I had a chance to speak here in Washington to President Tshisekedi.  And I can say this:  There is a two-track approach that are – and these tracks are pretty much joined – the Nairobi Process and then the efforts that Angola is leading that led to an agreement in Luanda, where all sides made commitments to, in effect, pull back and de-escalate the situation.  And that’s an important agreement and, if and as it’s implemented, I think it offers tremendous promise for ending the current conflict and hopefully leading to more durable stability in the eastern DRC.

Now, a big part of that is M23 genuinely pulling back, and there, we are looking to Rwanda to use its influence with M23 to encourage that and to move that forward.  At the same time, any militarized nongovernmental group needs to stand down, and that includes groups like the FDLR, and we are looking for all sides to use their influence to ensure that that happens.  Rwandan forces need to pull back.

So the challenge now is implementation of what was actually agreed, and that’s what we’re working on with the leaders in question, but also, critically, with those who are playing a leading role in trying to reduce tensions and resolve conflict – notably, Kenya, Angola, the EAC, et cetera.

So I have some hope that we now have an agreement and a process that can lead to that result.  That’s what we’re working on, and we’ll continue to engage directly with the president of the DRC, the president of Rwanda, and with all of the others in the region who are leading this effort.

With regard to Ethiopia, there too we have a very important cessation-of-hostilities agreement that has led, over the last few weeks, to a significant reduction in violence in Tigray, the start of humanitarian assistance getting in in significant quantities, the beginning of the restoration of services, and, we hope as well, the need to verify with international monitors that human rights abuses are no longer taking place.

Implementation of this agreement, just as with the Luanda agreement, is the critical piece.  The agreement’s there.  We need to make sure it’s implemented and that, ideally, the implementation is done as quickly and as effectively as possible.  Another critical component of this agreement is for Eritrean forces to withdraw from Tigray, and we’re looking to that and we’re – I’ve had discussions with a number of the leaders who were here about the need to see that happen.

So in both of these cases, I think we have now positive foundations to try to reduce tensions, resolve conflicts, create a stronger foundation for durable peace.  But these things are fragile; they demand constant engagement, constant effort.  And part of what we did here in Washington this week with the relevant actors was to work on the roadmap ahead for implementing these agreements, so there’ll be a lot of follow-up in the days to come.

With regard to AGOA, it’s produced, I think, tremendously positive results in the time that it’s been in force, and we are discussing now with all of the different stakeholders – the partner countries, the private sector, our Congress – and listening to them, learning from them about how AGOA can be as effective as possible and having these conversations as we look to see where we take it once it expires, as you said, in 2025.  As to countries and their participation in AGOA, the law has clear criteria, and we simply apply the facts in any given case to the law.

MR PRICE:  Anthony Osae Brown, Bloomberg Africa.

QUESTION:  Hi.  My name is Anthony Osae Brown from Bloomberg Africa.  You mentioned protecting democracy, encouraging democracy in Africa, and one of the meetings you had yesterday with the Ghanaian Government, he raised the question of the Wagner Group being allocated a mine in Burkina Faso and basically called on the U.S. to help protect democracy in West Africa.  And I’m wondering what assurances are you giving to the Ghanaian Government and to your allies in the region that you’ll protect them from destabilization from the activities of the Wagner Group or mercenaries in the area.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So a few things to be said about this.  Wagner Group came up in a number of conversations over the course of this week on the margins of the summit, including, indeed, in my meeting with President Akufo-Addo of Ghana.  We’ve heard repeated concerns that Wagner and groups that are linked to it manufacture or exploit insecurity, they threaten stability, they undermine good governance, they rob countries of mineral wealth, they violate human rights.  And we’ve heard that and seen that again and again.

If you go back to 2017, Wagner forces have deployed to the Central African Republic, they’ve deployed to Mozambique, to Mali, to Libya, and at the same time we’ve seen disinformation campaigns that are furthering the exploitative goals that Wagner and its founder have quite literally across the continent of Africa.  There are United Nations investigations that detail the targeting of minority groups, the killing of civilians in Central African Republic, in Libya, in Mali by Wagner forces.  I called out Wagner recently in a report that we put out on international religious freedom for its activities in the Central African Republic.

These investigations have documented human rights abuses.  They’ve documented recruitment and use of child soldiers.  And they’ve also documented the exploitation of resources that Wagner engages in.  And we’ve also seen Wagner interfere with UN peacekeeping operations, endangering peacekeepers, endangering United Nations personnel.  It’s a long litany of bad things.

And then the bottom line, ultimately, is this:  Wherever we’ve seen Wagner deploy, countries find themselves weaker, poorer, more insecure, and less independent.  That’s the common denominator.  That’s the common story across the board, which is why it’s so important that we work together with partners in Africa to make them resilient to something like the Wagner Group.  We have something called the Global Fragility Act that is now being implemented in an effort to address in a very comprehensive way problems of instability so that there’s not a vacuum that something like Wagner comes in and tries to fill.  We’re using all of the relevant tools that we have to counter its influence, everything from sanctions to exposure, some of which I’ve just done; bolstering state capacity, bolstering regional capacity, bolstering international cooperation.  All of these things are necessary.

And the bottom line is this:  What I heard in conversations this week, as I’ve heard in the past, is our partners in Africa tell us that they do not want their resources exploited.  They don’t want the human rights of their people abused.  They don’t want their governance undermined, and ultimately, as a result, they really don’t want Wagner.

MR PRICE:  Shannon Crawford, ABC News.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Secretary Blinken.  Through the course of the summit, you have been very careful to make the case that the administration doesn’t want to force African nations to choose between the U.S. and China, but the Secretary of Defense clearly said that Beijing’s influence on the continent is a destabilizing threat.  Do you share that assessment?

And secondly, we heard today from the Ukrainian military that Russia is digging in for a prolonged war.  Now, as you noted, the White House did commit $55 billion for Africa over the course of three years, but of course, aid to Ukraine through this 10-month conflict has already eclipsed that level.  Are you confident that the U.S. can maintain support for Ukraine among members of the Global South through a drawn-out fight, levels of support that have already been described as tepid at best by some?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  First part of the question – this summit is about one thing, Africa and the relationship between the United States and Africa.  It’s about one region and only one region, Africa.  It’s not about any other region.  It’s not about any other country, and I think you heard that across the board this week.  And I recognize people may want to turn it into something else, but sometimes a thing is just what it is, and this is the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.

And fundamentally, it’s about what we are affirmatively able to bring to the table, some of which I described – the partnerships, the investments that are based on shared interests and shared values, and again, done in a way that’s transparent, that’s high-quality, that’s sustainable, and with a focus on empowering local communities, respecting their needs, their decisions, and their rights.  That is what we’ve been talking about for the last three days.

And in doing that, we’re actually creating more opportunity, more opportunity for Africans, more opportunity for Americans – new, good-paying jobs, particularly in the green economy; infrastructure that actually connects countries and peoples, which is maybe one of the biggest needs in Africa because to realize the extraordinary potential, that connectivity is the one missing piece.  We’re working on that.  A more educated, dynamic workforce; more effective approaches to shared challenges, particularly food insecurity, climate.

In short, what we’re seeking to do is to try to help deliver on what people need.  That’s what this is about.  And it’s a fundamental challenge.  Can we effectively deliver?  That’s the challenge for all of our countries.  That’s what all of these leaders were talking about this week.  And our answer to that question is yes, we want to work affirmatively with you; and the answer is yes, we can deliver if we do it together.

Now, if other countries have the ability and the will to do the same thing, that’s great.  There’s more than enough need to go around.  But from our perspective, to the extent that anyone else is engaged, we just want to make sure it’s a race to the top, not a race to the bottom.  We want to make sure that when we’re seeing investments in Africa, they’re done to the highest standards.  They’re not piling debt on countries.  They’re not abusing workers or importing workers from outside.  They respect the environment.  They don’t bring corruption with them.

If that’s the case, if we have these affirmative partnerships and investments, then it’s great for everyone to be involved.  And ultimately, as I said, this is about choices that Africans will make, and our purpose is simply to make sure that they have a good choice.  That’s what this is about.

With regard to Ukraine, let me just say two things.  First, I had an opportunity over the last week to spend some time on Capitol Hill – first with the Senate last week, the House actually this morning before we came to the summit – with the Secretary of Defense, the Director of National Intelligence, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and colleagues from the Treasury Department, USAID, and others.  And what I heard there was continued strong bipartisan support for the efforts we’re making to help Ukraine defend itself, to sustain pressure on Russia, to end its aggression, as well as to continue to strengthen our own defensive alliance, NATO.

With regard to the Global South, it’s very powerful because you hear countries that are – were here in Washington this week – Ghana, Kenya, so many others – that have been the victims of imperialism in the past and who see that now happening to Ukraine by Russia, and it cuts to the core for them.  They feel strongly that this is not simply a matter of what’s happening to Ukrainians in Ukraine.  It’s a matter for all to be concerned by because it goes to the very principles that were established after two World Wars and after colonialism to try to make sure that there are rules and understandings that one country is not going to go in and change the borders of another by force; it’s not going to engage in land grabs; it’s not going to try to erase the identity of a country and subsume it into itself; that territorial integrity, independence, sovereignty, all of these things matter, they’re meaningful, and they’re especially meaningful when it comes to Africa.  So we heard this again and again.

Now, having said that, it’s been very important to us to demonstrate that we can run and chew gum at the same time, by which I mean this:  Even as we and many other countries are trying to deal with the Russian aggression against Ukraine, we’re also working on, engaging, dealing with the problems, the challenges that people are feeling around the world, and notably in the Global South, including dealing with climate, dealing with global health and their own situations, dealing with food insecurity, problems that, parenthetically, in some cases have been made worse by the Russian aggression.  I think everything that comes out of these three days demonstrates that that’s exactly what we’re doing – that we are responding in partnership to these needs even as we’re dealing with the situation in Ukraine.  It is not a zero sum, and I think if you – I don’t want to speak for them, but if you ask many of the countries that were here this week, I think that they have to come away, based at least on what I’ve heard, very – feeling very positive about the engagement of the United States on the issues that matter to them and to the lives of their people day in, day out.

MR PRICE:  Guilaume Naudin, RFI.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  I wanted to have your take about the outcomes of this summit.  Did it meet your expectations?  Did it exceed it?  And isn’t the tough part starting right now, considering the last summit was eight years ago and we had to wait eight years to have another event like this, with the implementation and the follow-up of everything that was decided here?

(Via interpreter) There are many French-speaking countries here.  What is your feeling and the rapport from the summit?  Does the hard work start now?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  (Via interpreter) The outcome is very positive, and you’re entirely right: the hardest remains to be done now, and that’s always the case with a summit such as this one.

The bottom line is this:  We have made significant and tangible progress across every one of the shared priorities that we had going into the summit, and I described some of them a few minutes ago.  And so I don’t want to repeat the – I could actually spend probably the next 15 minutes just going through the list of what we call deliverables.  But just in summary, we’ve announced very significant commitments across the board, some of them even groundbreaking, on peace and security, on diplomacy and good governance, on trade and investment, on health, on the environment, on food security, on technology and innovation, on people-to-people connections and ties.

But to your point – and I very much agree with you – what happens over three days is very important in setting the direction, making the commitments, but it’s what happens over the next 362 days that really matters.  It is the follow-through.  It is the implementation.  And I think that was felt across the board.  It’s one of the reasons why the President was keen on having maybe our most experienced diplomat for Africa over the last four decades, Johnnie Carson, take on this role of doing the follow-through, doing the implementation, making sure that everything that we said we would do we’re actually going to do.

Similarly, the strategy that we put out on Africa a few months ago that I had the opportunity to do in South Africa, we’re in effect putting out a report card on ourselves as well as in partnership with African countries to make sure that we’re making good on what we said we would do.

So that’s what, I think, ultimately this needs to be judged on.  I believe that the last three days were a significant success, but ultimately, the ultimate judgment has to be in the days to come, the weeks to come, the months to come, are we making good on what we said we would do?  I’m convinced that we will.

And by the way, over the last couple years that I’ve been on this job, I’ve had an opportunity to travel a fair bit in Africa – Kenya, Nigeria, Morocco, Algeria, Senegal, Egypt, South Africa – but as the President mentioned today, I think you’re going to see a lot of us in Africa next year, including the President.  So that’s an opportunity as well to carry forward everything that we’ve done here, to continue these conversations, to continue the implementation.  And I know when the President goes, when other Cabinet members go, we’re going to want to be able to show that what we did and said here in Washington, we’re actually carrying out.

MR PRICE:  Jonathan Donkor, Ghanaian Times.

QUESTION:  My question has to do with debt forgiveness.  Huge investment deals and commitments have been announced over the last three days.  However, many African countries are saddled with debt.  Ghana, for instance, is currently undertaking a debt exchange program as part of the IMF support it’s seeking.  Is the Western word willing to forgive the debt owed by African countries?  And how would you help the countries to prevent similar situations in the future?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yeah, thank you.  So this is a subject, a theme that we’ve heard loudly and clearly here.  It’s not new in the sense that this has been part of the conversation for some time.  And there is no doubt that the rise of unsustainable debt burdens, especially in Africa, is a tremendous challenge, and it’s one that we’re committed to addressing.  When you look at the debt crises that we’ve seen, they’re devastating from a humanitarian standpoint, and they can be debilitating when it comes to effective economic development and inclusive growth.  So there are a number of things that we talked about and that we clearly need to move forward.

One is we need all creditors, both countries and the private sector, to work together with us to support debtor countries.  It can’t simply be the United States.  And we’ve attempted to address this – for example, through the G20, through the Paris Club – as I think you know.  We’ve also led debt reduction efforts through the – something called the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative.  That has provided, to date, about $75 billion in debt service relief to dozens of countries – I think nearly 40 countries – going back to 1996.  Of those 40 or so countries, I think more than 30 are African countries.  So there’s a real focus on this.

There’s a G20 initiative that suspended more than $12.9 billion worth of debt service payments owed by 48 countries.  This was between May of 2020 and December of last year.  So these are some of the things that we’ve actually been doing and working on.  But I think it’s also fair to say more needs to be done to prevent debt crises from emerging in the first place.  That’s a big part of the challenge.

And one of the things that we’re especially concerned about is the growth of untransparent debt, including off-balance-sheet debt and debt that’s hidden by non-disclosure agreements.  So a company or a country may come in, lend the money, and part of the agreement is, no, you can’t reveal the terms.  And that means, among other things, that when other countries are negotiating for loans, they don’t know what the terms are, the people don’t know what the terms are, and countries wind up being saddled with debt that they can’t possibly repay.  So that transparency that we bring to everything we do, we need to see that spread around in the way that these loans are made.

And not only does this actually increase the risk of a debt crisis, but it also can prolong the duration and create barriers to actually resolving these debt burdens.  So bottom line is this:  We need both the creditors – again, countries, private sector, as well as the debtors – to do their part to support greater fiscal and debt transparency and try to remove the barriers that exist to that transparency.

MR PRICE:  Unfortunately, we’re out of time.  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you, everyone.  Appreciate it.

MR PRICE:  Thank you, everyone, for joining.  Thank you.


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