The United States is working with leaders across Africa to promote economic prosperity, climate action and democracy, said Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his first virtual trip to the continent April 27.
Young African Leaders Initiative
The first stop in Blinken’s virtual trip was a roundtable discussion with alumni leaders from the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), the United States’ effort to invest in the next generation of African leaders.
“I’ve seen up close the incredible power of cultural diplomacy and exchange,” he said. “That’s so vital to advancing democracy and social change.”
Since 2010, nearly 4,400 alumni have graduated from YALI’s Mandela Washington Fellowship exchange program and more than 20,000 from its four Regional Leadership Centers (RLCs) located across the continent. The online YALI Network community counts over 700,000 members as well.
Blinken heard from 10 of these young leaders around the continent, who asked questions about the United States’ commitment to the region, the success of YALI, the future of democracy, trade with China and freedom of information on social media.
“What each of you is doing in your life with your lives is leadership,” Blinken concluded. “It gives me tremendous confidence in the future.”
Blinken next met with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama. The leaders discussed economic diversification and trade, climate change, the challenges of COVID-19 and democracy in the region.
U.S.-Nigeria relations “have been strong for 60 years,” Blinken affirmed to President Buhari, “and I’m honored to have the opportunity to work with you and your team on building that foundation and charting a shared vision, to guide our strategic partnership for the coming years.”
At a U.S.-Nigeria Health Partnership event following that meeting, Blinken emphasized the United States’ commitment to supporting health care in Nigeria through both the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the United States’ continuing COVID-19 assistance.
The secretary said the health of all Nigerians is vital to a successful future for both countries. As of April 21, Nigeria had vaccinated 1.4 million of its citizens through the COVAX facility, which the United States leads in funding. Since 2003, the U.S. has donated $6 billion through PEPFAR in Nigeria.
During the Kenya leg of his virtual journey, the secretary met with President Uhuru Kenyatta and Kenya’s Cabinet secretary for foreign affairs, Ambassador Raychelle Omamo, to talk about the countries’ bilateral relationship.
They discussed both countries’ commitment to democracy, human rights, gender equality, climate change and public health — especially regarding COVID-19 recovery.
“I think we both see challenges but also opportunities to, as President Biden puts it, build back better from the pandemic,” Blinken said.
Blinken also met with leaders from the private clean energy sector to discuss solar and wind projects in Kenya.
Over 90% of Kenya’s electricity comes from hydropower, solar and wind projects that have been supported by the U.S. private sector in coordination with the Kenyan government.
These energy initiatives are “very good for the Kenyan people, it’s good for the Kenyan economy,” Blinken said. “It’s also good for the planet. And so I think there’s something very powerful going on.”
This article was originally published April 30.