Senior American diplomat promotes American-built projects in Senegal

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken concludes a week-long tour of three African countries which the Biden administration hopes will highlight his help in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and climate change.

On a trip overshadowed by crises elsewhere on the continent, Blinken was in Senegal on Saturday to promote US-built infrastructure projects, sustainable development, women’s empowerment and other human rights initiatives. human rights to strengthen faltering democracies across Africa.

In meetings with female entrepreneurs and executives of multinational companies based in the United States, Blinken touted the benefits of strengthening the role of women in economies and purchasing American products. In a coup against China, with which the United States competes for lucrative business, he noted that America invests “without imposing on the country a debt that it cannot manage.”

“The effects will be felt inside Senegal, improving infrastructure, creating jobs and strengthening public safety and climate resilience,” the top US diplomat said as he attended the signing four road, traffic management and other agreements between Senegal and US companies worth approximately $ 1 billion.

The investment, he said, shows “our common values ​​of democracy, transparency and the rule of law as well as innovation”.

With women entrepreneurs, Blinken spoke of Senegal’s progress in promoting equality, but added that “there is still a lot of work to be done”, especially to facilitate women’s access to loans. to start businesses.

“Mobilizing women unleashes huge potential, more robust and faster growth, in a country like Senegal which experienced explosive growth the year before the pandemic,” said Blinken.

As he does in France and other French-speaking countries, Blinken spoke almost entirely in French during his public appearances, notably with the President of Senegal, Macky Sall, and during an event at the Institut Pasteur. of Dakar, which hopes to start producing COVID-19 vaccines with U.S. help next year.

In a private meeting with Sall, Blinken was expected to address security concerns, particularly the increase in jihadist violence in Africa’s Sahel region and the increase in authoritarianism which many say fuels extremism. .

“Geopolitics and security will be the dominant themes of Blinken’s stopover in Dakar, with particular emphasis on the threats of Islamist expansion and the weakening of democratic standards in the region,” said Eric Humphery. Smith, analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, a global risk consulting firm.

Senegal is a key partner in the fight against extremism and last year it hosted the annual US military counterterrorism exercise Flintlock.

One area where Sall can seek US assistance is in strengthening security measures along the country’s borders with Mali and Mauritania, where several counterterrorism operations have taken place in recent years.

“Washington is concerned about the security, politics and humanitarian situation in West Africa for obvious reasons, the expansion of jihadist groups, multiple coups d’état and one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world”, said Rida Lyammouri, a senior member of the Policy Center for the New South, a Morocco-based organization focused on economics and politics.


Associated Press writer Babacar Dione contributed to this report.

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