Blinken calls for Africa to be wary of China

U.S. Secretary of State John Blinken holds a videoconference with African leaders from Nigeria, Kenya and other countries on April 27. AP- Leah Millis

Secretary of State John S. Blinken spoke Tuesday (April 27) with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Kenyan Foreign Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, hoping that Africa should be extra careful in its dealings with China, while pledging more U.S. investment in the continent.

Blinken’s meeting with Nigerian President Buhari and Kenyan Foreign Minister Kenyatta was held by video Tuesday because of the epidemic.

Blinken also gave African dignitaries a video tour of several U.S.-supported renewable energy ventures in Africa and a hospital the U.S. helped build. Speaking to a younger generation of Africans who have studied in the United States, Blinken said he wants African countries to “keep their eyes open” when dealing with other countries.

He said, “We’re not going to give anyone a choice between the United States and China, but I encourage you to have the courage to ask the tough questions and demand that the other side act transparently and make the best decision for your country with full information.”

In particular, Blinken emphasized that when other countries come to Africa to invest in building major infrastructure projects, they should first ask whether those countries are bringing in their own workers or creating jobs for local African citizens.

Blinken expressed concern that some African countries borrowed from China resulting in heavy debt, and that during the New Crown epidemic, Zambia thus became the first African country unable to repay the funds.

Blinken said the United States is confident in the potential of Africa, Africa’s future. “Your success is our success, and we want to invest in you, but in a good way,” he said.

U.S. President Joe Biden pledged to strengthen partnerships with the African continent, a radical reversal of his predecessor Trump. Trump is the only U.S. president to have never visited Africa while president.

For his part, Nigerian President Buhari expressed gratitude to President Biden for ordering the lifting of visa restrictions on Nigerians. He also pledged extensive cooperation with the United States in the area of security, especially in the Sahel.