US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is embarking on a significant week-long tour of Africa’s west coast with a key focus on maintaining and strengthening US influence.
This is particularly crucial in light of heightened competition from Beijing and Moscow and the escalating instability in the Sahel region.
Starting his journey with a brief stopover in Cape Verde, Blinken’s subsequent destinations include Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, and Angola. Notably, this marks his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa in ten months, occurring against the backdrop of the dominant international focus on the Ukraine war and the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Despite President Joe Biden’s unfulfilled promise to visit Africa in 2023, Blinken’s tour is happening at a time of evolving political landscapes since his last visit to the region in March 2023.
Political changes in Niger, where Blinken previously supported elected President Mohamed Bazoum, have taken place due to a military coup. The new regime is diversifying its partnerships, including strengthening ties with Moscow and removing French soldiers, raising concerns about security in the Sahel.
Russia has expanded its influence in several French-speaking African countries, contributing to worries about security in the Sahel, where jihadist groups continue to conduct attacks. In response to the unstable situation in the Sahel, the United States is considering alternative locations for a drone base, emphasizing stability in coastal countries.
Antony Blinken’s West African visit aims to assist these countries comprehensively in strengthening their societies and combating the expanding terrorist threat in the Sahel.
Arriving in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, where he plans to attend a decisive match in the African Cup of Nations (CAN), Blinken will commend the country’s democratic consolidation since Alassane Ouattara came to power in 2011.
Côte d’Ivoire, bordering Mali and Burkina Faso, has successfully contained the jihadist threat, employing a multifaceted approach combining military responses with economic development.
The Biden administration’s ten-year plan, announced last year, focuses on promoting stability and preventing conflict in coastal countries such as Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, and Togo, departing from a security-centric approach.
In Cape Verde, Blinken’s initial stop, the United States has praised the democratic stability of the Portuguese-speaking archipelago.
The US has contributed around $150 million through various programs, including the expansion of the capital’s port, road improvements, and enhancements to the drinking water distribution system, with a third aid program currently under consideration.