Blinken Expresses US Commitment to Boosting Africa Partnerships  

State Department — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday the United States is committed to growing its partnerships across the African continent and increasingly sees African countries “leading on issues of global consequence.”

Speaking to reporters alongside Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara after talks in Abidjan, Blinken said the discussion included growing commercial ties to create jobs and growth in both the U.S. and Ivory Coast, as well as investing in public health initiatives and addressing regional security challenges.

Blinken said the United States and Ivory Coast “have a strong and growing bond.”

Blinken’s visit to Ivory Coast is seen as reflecting U.S. interests in the country’s stability and its preparations for the 2025 presidential election.

The U.S. and international community are concerned about stability in the Sahel sub-region of West Africa following several coups in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Niger since 2020.

Ivory Coast borders three countries that have experienced coups in recent years: Guinea in September 2021; Mali in both August 2020 and May 2021; and Burkina Faso in January and September of 2022.

The United States announced $45 million in new funding to aid Ivory Coast and its neighbors in preventing conflict and promoting stability amid regional threats. This contribution brings the total U.S. stability-focused assistance in Coastal West Africa to nearly $300 million since 2022.

From Ivory Coast, Blinken is traveling Tuesday to Nigeria where he is set to hold talks with Nigerian President Bola Tinubu and Foreign Minister Yusuf Maitama Tuggar in Abuja.

Regional security talks in Nigeria

Nigeria shares a border with Niger, where the military ousted its elected leader, Mohamed Bazoum, on July 26, 2023, and subsequently scrapped defense agreements with France, its traditional security partner.

In Abuja, Blinken is anticipated to discuss the military coup in Niger. The meeting comes just days after the country’s military junta agreed to enhance relations with Russia.

American officials have stated that while the U.S. is open to countries diversifying their partnerships, aligning with nations like Russia could be problematic. They point to the situation in Mali, where rising civilian casualties and security issues have followed Russian paramilitary Wagner Group’s involvement and France’s withdrawal.

The French military withdrawal from the Sahel and the end of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali in December have heightened concerns over regional security.

Nigeria is the largest country by population and economy in sub-Saharan Africa, and the dominant political, economic, and military power in the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS.

The United States is the largest foreign investor in Nigeria, and the U.S. maintains a significant security partnership with Nigeria in its counterterrorism operations against both Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa.

Cabo Verde

Blinken’s fourth African trip began Monday in Cape Verde and is scheduled to close in Angola. State Department officials said key priorities included bolstering security partnerships and enhancing health and economic development in the region.

In Cape Verde’s capital, Praia, Blinken held talks Monday with Prime Minister Ulisses Correia e Silva and visited the city’s port, Porto da Praia, which received funding for modernization efforts from the U.S. government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation.

“It is extraordinary that Cabo Verde is the first country to complete two Millennium Challenge Corporation compacts, and now you’re starting to build a third one,” said Blinken.

He also congratulated Cabo Verde’s malaria-free certification by the World Health Organization.

Millennium Challenge Compacts are grant agreements designed to fund specific programs that support economic growth.

Silva said Cabo Verde shares values of democracy and good governance with the U.S. in its foreign policy.

“We strongly condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we condemned the terrorist act of Hamas in Israel, and we defend solutions that make the two states of Israel and Palestine viable,” he said. “We condemn coup d’etat and changes to constitutional term limits for presidents of the republic that have occurred in Africa.”

Cabo Verde is a small island nation that has a large diaspora in the United States.

The U.S. and Cabo Verde signed a Memorandum of Understanding on defense cooperation in December 2022, focusing on maritime security.

Angola and Luanda Process

In a Monday call, Blinken spoke to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Félix Tshisekedi and discussed the concerns of election observers as well as the need to enhance democratic confidence moving forward.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement that they also discussed the crisis in eastern DRC and potential diplomatic solutions.

Following a contentious December election, Tshisekedi, sworn in Saturday for a second term, pledged to unify the country and address conflicts in the east.

The worsening conflicts in eastern Congo have prompted countries in the region to broker two peace initiatives: the so-called Luanda Process and the Nairobi Process, according to Molly Phee, assistant secretary of state for African Affairs.

Increasing tensions between Rwanda and the DRC have led to several alleged attacks by Congolese and Rwandan forces on each other’s territory.

Angola leads the Luanda Process, where Blinken plans to hold talks with Angolan President João Lourenço and Foreign Minister Téte António.

Last week, Blinken met with Rwandan President Paul Kagame on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he reiterated the need for all actors to take concrete steps to ease tensions.

Last November, Avril Haines, the director of U.S. national intelligence, traveled to both Kinshasa and Kigali, meeting with leaders from the two neighboring countries to secure a commitment to de-escalate tensions in eastern DRC.

“We were able to institute a process of weekly check-ins that we undertook through the end of calendar year 2023,” Phee told reporters during a Thursday briefing.