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US State Secretary Blinken Nurtures New US Policy Towards Africa During Tour

From 15 to 20 November 2021, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken visited in turn Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal. This marks the first physical trip to Africa by a high official from the Biden-Harris Administration. In April 2021, due to COVID, the US could only perform a virtual tour but thanks to improving situation, a physical visit became possible.

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The US has almost made a 180-degree turn on its policy towards Africa. While previous US President Trump dismissed and disparaged Africa, President Biden stressed several times that “America is back in Africa.” During his keynote speech at the ECOWAS HQ in Abuja, Blinken stated that the USA firmly believes that “it’s time to stop treating Africa as a subject of geopolitics, and start treating it as the major geopolitical player it has become.”

In Senegal, Blinken signed a number of MOU totaling nearly one billion dollars. The projects involve upgrades to infrastructure and public security. As part of the package deal, Blinken also announced that the US will invest USD 3 million in Senegal to set up a COVID vaccine production plant.

As a matter of fact, Blinken underscored that the USA has delivered, free of charge, 250 million doses of COVID vaccines around the world, mostly through the WHO COVAX facility. For Africa, the USA has provided 50 million doses to 43 countries with “no political strings attached” and with more on the way. Therefore, the USA stands firmly by Africa to end the COVID pandemic.

Secretary Blinken pointed out that African countries do not have to choose between the USA and China. Echoing State Secretary Blinken, Senegalese Minister of Foreign Affairs Aïssata Tall Sall stated that: “We do not have one choice but many choices. Africa is the land of opportunity. Our diplomatic policy is sovereign and excludes nobody. But we have traditional partners and historic allies and we shall not drop the old for the new.”

Observers noted that the visit of US Secretary Blinken to Senegal comes less than two weeks before the 8th Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) which will be held in Dakar from 29 to 30 November 2021. It is also worth noting that this Africa tour of the US Secretary of State precedes the similarly traditional tour by his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi which usually occurs at the beginning of each year.

Secretary Blinken also announced that Africa is a key partner in the Build Back Better World initiative in addition to being the focal point of Prosper Africa. Emphasizing the new policy towards Africa, the US-Africa relationship will be based on “sustainability, transparency and shared values.” Distancing itself further from the Trump era, the Biden-Harris Administration has promised to treat African countries with “mutual respect and as equal partners.” Putting words into action, President Biden plans to host a Summit with African leaders to deepen cooperation in 2022.

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