State Department — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and Angola next week, the State Department announced, his fourth trip to the African continent.
The trip comes after 17 Cabinet-level official visits last year as a follow-up to the 2022 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington.
President Joe Biden has also expressed his desire to visit Africa this year, but no definite plans have been announced.
State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said Blinken’s six-day trip will highlight how the United States has accelerated the U.S.-Africa partnership since the summit, including in areas such as climate, food and health security.
“He will also emphasize our future-focused economic partnership and how the United States is investing in infrastructure in Africa to boost two-way trade, create jobs at home and on the continent, and help Africa compete in the global marketplace,” Miller said.
Asked if countering China’s influence on the continent would be a major theme, Molly Phee, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said this is more of a preoccupation of the media.
“If China didn’t exist, we would be fully engaged in Africa,” she said. “Africa is important for its own sake, and it’s important for American interests.”
Phee mentioned major U.S. infrastructure projects partnering with Angola and Cape Verde. She said a lot of the news coming out of Africa is negative, and Blinken’s trip would highlight the positive.
“I think it can highlight the great capacity of African people, particularly the youth. It can show really forward-looking types of engagements, for example, our partnership with Angola in outer space,” she said.
Phee said the Africa Cup of Nations football [soccer] tournament will be going on, and Blinken hopes to be able to attend a match in person while in the Ivory Coast.
Phee acknowledged that it is never possible for U.S. officials to get away from security issues, saying that Blinken would talk about the situation in the Sahel and coastal West Africa when he visits the Ivory Coast.
She said Nigeria is dealing with several internal security challenges, and Angola has played an important role in trying to address and reduce tensions in the eastern Congo.
In response to a question from VOA about Blinken’s visit to Cape Verde, Phee said the country is literally the port on Africa’s doorstep. “It is also a terrific democracy. It’s a good model for the region,” she said.