United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to make his first visit to Africa, virtually, during which he will meet with the presidents of Nigeria and Kenya. Tuesday’s tour will include a meeting with African youth from across the continent.
Blinken’s visit coincided with difficulties the continent has had in securing Covid-19 vaccines as the numbers rise sharply as the third wave of the pandemic rips through the health facilities.
The US Secretary of State will then meet with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama “to reiterate the value of our bilateral relationship and discuss issues of shared importance”, the state department said in a statement.
The visit comes as the security situation in the country, a key oil exporter, continues to spiral amid attacks by the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) in the north, widespread displacement and increases in kidnappings for ransom.
During Blinken’s virtual trip to Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo will celebrate the “57-year bilateral relationship” and “discuss future cooperation to promote democracy and expand trade and explore avenues to address global challenges, including climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic,” the state department said.
Kenya has also grappled with insecurity and displacement in neighbouring countries including Somalia, Ethiopia and South Sudan.
The visit comes after the Biden administration, on Friday, appointed veteran diplomat Jeffrey Feltman as special envoy for the Horn of Africa as Washington looks to step up diplomatic efforts in a region hit by the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray and other crises.
Feltman also will lead international efforts to address tensions between Ethiopia and Sudan and around the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Blinken said in a statement.
Fighting in Tigray, between rebels and government forces from Ethiopia and neighbouring Eritrea, has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands more from their homes in the region of about five million.
- An Al Jazeera report