December 9, 2021

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Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Alassane Samba Diop and Mamadou Ibra Kane of E-Media Group

15 min read

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Dakar, Senegal

U.S. Embassy

(All via translation.)

QUESTION: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to a special interview with the U.S.  Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken.  Good evening. 

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Good evening. 

QUESTION: (inaudible) You’re ending your trip to Africa, which brought you to Kenya and Nigeria, with a stop in Senegal.  What impressions are you taking away as you leave Africa?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: I’m left with the idea that we have the need and the opportunity to strengthen our relations.  The partnership between the United States and Africa. Not only should we strengthen it but also to renew it, and have a real partnership.  Because when we think about the big issues that we face before us, whether climate , or the pandemic, or building inclusive economies for everyone, or defending democracy, we can’t do it without Africa.  In 25 or 30 years, one in four people on our planet will be from Africa.  Africa is indispensable.  And Senegal is a key partner for the United States because we have the same values.  We have the desire to work together.  And I’m going back to Washington, with great enthusiasm to build these partnerships for the future because I know it’s good for the United States and I believe it’s good for Africans as well, and either way we must find ways to support each other and move forward together. 

QUESTION: I’d like to start with the economy.  The economy is important (inaudible) beautiful nature.  There is gold, water, oil, gas.  The Senegal that you are visiting today is an oil (inaudible).  The African youth does not understand the poverty they are living in.  What African resources are exported (inaudible)?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: It starts with this.  Because there is a need for infrastructure around the world, especially in Africa.  Enormous amounts of money are needed to do this, but it’s not just the resources that you devote to it that matter, it’s how you use them.  And for us, it is very important that the people who benefit first are the people on the ground in the country in question and not others.  It’s important that these investments are made in a way that benefits the local community, that the country in question, our partners, are not in debt and in a situation where in the future it is impossible to repay this debt.  It’s important that we move forward with regard to the environment, the rights of workers, and that we make things that will last, things of good quality.  And above all, that investments are not only in what we call “hardware,” but also in “software” – in human beings and especially in the exchange of knowledge and abilities.  Because the goal, in fact, is ultimately that the problems and opportunities in Africa are to be resolved first by Africans and for that we need not only a sharing of infrastructure but also of knowledge.  That’s true partnership. 

QUESTION: Exactly.  The Millennium Challenge Account is on its second contract, this time dedicated to energy.  Alassane Samba Diop said earlier that Senegal is ready to exploit its oil and gas resources, especially natural gas, since energy interests you.  Today we want to make gas a fossil fuel energy which Senegal and also other countries on the continent refuse to do.  What is the position of Senegal on these energies?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: So, we have a fight that we must lead together (inaudible).

QUESTION: Sorry, I meant to say “what is the position of the United States?”

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yes, but I am taking into account several things.  There’s a fight that the world has to carry out together because if we don’t make sure that temperatures don’t rise above 1.5 degrees we have a catastrophe ahead of us.  You already have consequences.  So that’s one thing.  At the same time, we must accelerate the use of renewable energy, however it is a transition.  It can’t be done overnight.  We understand that in some countries, some partners, some situations, this transition will require the use of methods other than renewables, for a period of time, before this transition can be done. 

QUESTION: (inaudible) So you are in tune with him. 

SECRETARY BLINKEN: You have to take that into account, absolutely.  But there is a second thing that is very important.  We have a responsibility in the United States because historically we have a country that has industrialized relatively very, relatively early.  So we have historically contributed a lot to global warming and carbon emissions.  Well, now we are responsible for about fifteen percent of the emissions.  But we have a responsibility, and this responsibility tells us that we have to contribute to the means for change and resilience in developing countries.  So there’s an international fund for that.  President Biden in the spring doubled our support for that fund, and he doubled it again at a session at the UN General Assembly.  We are absolutely convinced that other developed countries should do the same to ensure that resources for change, for resilience will be there, and that includes in Senegal. 

QUESTION: (inaudible) People in charge of African nations, countries in this region (inaudible) the Sahel region, Mali, Burkina Faso, the coup d’état today in Guinea.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yes.

QUESTION: and they do not understand democracy (inaudible).

SECRETARY BLINKEN: So, Senegal has a clear role to play because it is a strong democracy with a tradition of institutions, and leadership, which I think can carry the flag of democracy in the region, in Africa, and even well beyond Africa.  When Senegal takes the presidency of the African Union next year, it will be a very important moment.  Because right now we have challenges coming up in the Sahel, (inaudible) in Ethiopia, in Sudan and others, in Guinea .  And I think Senegal has a very important role to play because it is a strong democracy.  I know that President Macky Sall is someone who has a lot of faith in the country’s constitution.  And I’m sure that’s what he has in mind in as he is heading up Senegalese democracy. 

QUESTION: What do you think about the transition in Mali and Guinea? Because today, what we have military juntas in those countries. 

SECRETARY BLINKEN: These transitions must be made, democratic transitions.  In Mali there is a plan that has been signed by the CDO.  Elections in the spring, and this election must take place.  We are working with our partners in the region, African institutions, and our partners outside of the region, such as France, to support the democratic transition in Mali.  Also to manage this very, very difficult problem of insecurity.  Unfortunately, we see extremism and terrorism spreading in the Sahel.  We need a comprehensive approach.  That is to say, we obviously need security, but that is not enough.  We also need (inaudible) development, a higher level of opportunity, because –even though there will always be extremists, that’s not going to change –there are all sorts of people who feel they have no choice because there is no opportunity.  So we have to act on that.  We have to act on both the security issues, but also on the development issues, to create that opportunity, to create a real choice for those people.

QUESTION: Does Russia’s presence in Mali bother you, the United States?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: I think it is not useful at all to have external actors, and especially actors, for example, like private militia forces like Wagner that add to the problem.  They don’t solve the problem. 

QUESTION: One last question, is President Biden thinking of coming to Senegal during his presidency?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: I’m sure he would like to come.  I can’t make his schedule for him but I know he has a very significant appreciation for Senegal.  He said that when I was leaving Washington.  It’s him, actually, that planned this trip across Africa with me, to Kenya, Nigeria, and Senegal.  And he knows that we have in Senegal a key partner in Africa.  And I’m sure that he will find a way to come. 

QUESTION: Anthony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State, thank you for this interview with our E-Media group.  Good evening. 

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.

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