The United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, will on Tuesday meet the presidents of Nigeria and Ivory Coast in a bid to forge a united front with key African democracies as crises engulf the world.
In Abidjan, Blinken will meet Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, a veteran leader who has won US praise for consolidating democracy, before heading to Abuja to see Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, elected last year on a platform of economic reforms.
The two West Africa powers, one English-speaking and one French-speaking, have largely stood by the United States despite unease in much of the continent over the Western focus on arming Ukraine and, more recently, US support for Israel in its war with Hamas.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, and Ivory Coast — as well as Kenya in East Africa — joined the United States in a United Nations vote in 2022 to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Their stance stands in contrast with another heavyweight, South Africa, which the United States has accused of allowing arms shipments to Russia and which most recently annoyed Washington by bringing a genocide case against Israel before the International Court of Justice.
Blinken will not travel to South Africa on the trip but he will visit Angola, which has transitioned from war to democracy and played a vital role in mediating to end unrest in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.
And on Monday, he stopped in Cape Verde, a long-standing partner of the United States.
Blinken has sought to showcase a softer side during his trip.
On Monday, he attended a critical football game in the Africa Cup of Nations between Ivory Coast and Equatorial Guinea, when his hosts gifted him an Ivorian orange jersey bearing his name.
Visiting a port in Cape Verde’s capital Praia that was expanded through US assistance, Blinken said the United States was “all in” for Africa.
“We see Africa as an essential, critical, central part of our future,” Blinken said.
Yet US President Joe Biden failed to live up to a promise, made to African leaders who visited Washington in late 2022, to travel to the continent in 2023.