Africa: Us Secretary of State Blinken Travels to Nigeria, Three Other African Countries

Secretary Blinken’s goal is to strengthen ties with Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, and Angola.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken kicks off a week-long visit – 21 to 26 January – to some African countries Sunday, seeking to build on the December 2022 US-Africa Leaders’ Summit and expand fast-growing economic, development and security partnerships across the continent.

Mr. Blinken’s first stop is Cabo Verde off Africa’s western coast. The archipelago nation is a powerful example of fruitful US engagement: two previous Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) development compacts helped transform the capital into a port hub, and Cabo Verde is now in the running for a regional MCC pact.

Beyond underscoring such success stories, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee says Mr Blinken also aims to discuss strengthening Atlantic maritime security cooperation and environmental protections.

From the Atlantic coast, Mr Blinken travels inland to Côte d’Ivoire, getting a front-seat view of the tightly fought Africa Cup of Nations soccer tournament it is hosting. Yet behind the celebrations is West Africa’s Islamist militant scourge, battering the vulnerable Sahel region and threatening coastal areas.

Ms Phee has spotlighted economic and governance initiatives designed to bolster shaky states against encroaching extremists. “Helping countries move out on all fronts to strengthen their societies, to prevent the expansion of terrorists–that will be part of the discussion,” said Ms Phee.

Mr Blinken will then travel to Nigeria. Africa’s largest economy and population presents a stark case for preventative action. ISIS and Boko Haram insurgents alongside criminal groups have together killed thousands and displaced over 2 million in recent years, despite Abuja’s military campaigns. Analysts say boosting youth employment and anti-graft reforms are badly needed to sap unrest.

Mr Blinken rounds out his trip in Angola. As a leader in mediating crisis in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Luanda’s engagement spotlights regional responsibility. Mr Blinken will seek Angolan President João Lourenço’s continued involvement in easing long-running tensions while touting US infrastructure funding that can stimulate Central Africa’s economy.

With China aggressively competing across Africa, US Officials are eager to resist notions this is a “US-China soccer match” for influence, as Assistant Secretary Phee put it. Yet highlighting American initiatives fulfilling African priorities – while warning of complex cooperation with undemocratic states – sends an unmistakable message to leaders and the public alike.

Pearl Matibe is a Washington, DC-based White House Correspondent, and media commentator with expertise in US foreign policy and international security. You may follow her on Twitter: @PearlMatibe

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