Wednesday , May 22 2024

Blinken traveled to Cape Verde

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken touched down on a remote African island chain before heading on to the Ivory Coast on Monday, kicking off a four-nation swing through the continent intended to show the Biden administration’s continued interest in Africa amid major conflicts in the Middle East and Europe.

A cool Atlantic breeze blew across the dusty port in Praia, Cape Verde’s capital, as Mr. Blinken noted that the facility there had been expanded and modernized with nearly $55 million in U.S. aid, making it what he called “a much stronger gateway to Africa for us and for so many other countries.” That project was completed more than a decade ago, but more U.S. development funds were on the way, he said.

Although his diplomacy accompanied a refueling stop en route to the continent, Mr. Blinken’s visit to the tiny island more than 400 miles off Senegal’s west coast helped to signal U.S. interest in Africa’s welfare. Mr. Blinken praised Cape Verde as a model of democracy and stability.

After Cape Verde, Mr. Blinken traveled to Ivory Coast, with stops planned for Nigeria and Angola this week. U.S. officials said he would address a range of issues on his stops, including conflict prevention and political stability after military coups in several countries in recent years.

Despite their intense focus on the wars in Gaza and Ukraine, Biden administration officials said they remained intent on strengthening ties with African nations, which hold vast economic potential and are a locus of great-power competition with China and Russia. Africa is expected to be home to about one quarter of the world’s population by 2050.

Mr. Blinken is making his fourth visit to sub-Saharan Africa as secretary of state. A parade of other top administration officials have also visited the continent over the past year, including Vice President Kamala Harris, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and the first lady, Jill Biden.

But President Biden has yet to follow through on a pledge he made in 2022 to visit the continent, raising doubts about the depth of his commitment — even though Mr. Biden said at a U.S.-Africa leaders summit in Washington in December 2022 that America was “all in” on Africa’s future.

Despite the region’s myriad challenges, Biden officials said Mr. Blinken intended to focus on upbeat issues like economic development and cultural ties. In Ivory Coast, Mr. Blinken, a longtime soccer player and fan, sat with the country’s prime minister for an Africa Cup of Nations match, only to witness a heartbreaking defeat that left angry fans hurling plastic water bottles toward the playing field.

A statement from the department spokesman, Matthew Miller, cited “climate, food and health security” as well as “our future-focused economic partnership,” including infrastructure investment and trade.
“We think this trip will hopefully be very positive,” Molly Phee, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said on a call with reporters last week. “A lot of times the news out of Africa is negative.”

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