Antony Blinken on tour in Africa to try to adapt the United States’ strategy

How can we remain influential on a continent in full diversification of its partnerships, both economic and security, of which Russia and China appear to be the primary beneficiaries? The problem is at the heart of the African tour of the American Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, who must follow from Monday January 22 to Friday January 26 a visit to Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Angola, countries all located on the Atlantic coast while Washington, particularly under the Trump administration, had focused its diplomatic efforts on Sudan and its military action on the Red Sea.

After a brief stopover in Praia, the capital of Cape Verde, an archipelago described by Mr. Blinken as “stability model” in a West Africa faced with a succession of coups d’état since 2020, the Secretary of State landed Monday afternoon in Abidjan, the economic capital of Côte d’Ivoire. “We are putting the package on Africa”, he declared, repeating the words of President Joe Biden, who however did not follow through on his promise to visit the continent in 2023.

A few days after the visit of his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, to Abidjan on January 17, this Ivorian step can be seen as a response to Beijing’s growing influence. In a context of a shift in the jihadist threat from the Sahel towards the north of the Gulf of Guinea countries, the challenges of this tour are, however, largely security. Mr. Blinken will “ensure that these countries act on all fronts to strengthen their societies and fight against the expansion of the terrorist threat observed in the Sahel”, summarized Molly Phee, Under Secretary of State for Africa, during a press briefing on January 18.

Read also | The head of Chinese diplomacy completes an African tour in Ivory Coast

This tour comes at a time when since the coup d’état that occurred in Niger in July 2023, Washington’s military presence on the continent has been largely limited. Even if the United States still has a base in Djibouti, facing the Red Sea, the Niamey and Agadez areas have until now constituted the main projection points for American forces to take off their drones and planes in order to track down jihadist and criminal networks stretching from southern Libya to the Sahel, via Sudan.

” Dead end “

During his last African tour, in March 2023, Mr. Blinken came to Niamey to show his support for President Mohamed Bazoum, with whom security cooperation was in good shape. But since the overthrow of the latter and the coming to power of a junta which turned away from its Western allies – starting with France – to move closer to Moscow in order to develop military cooperation, “the United States finds itself in an impasse”, notes American researcher Michael Shurkin. Military operations from Niger have been reduced to the strict minimum.

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