Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
Moussa Faki Mahamat, AU Commission Chairperson
Benjamin Franklin Room
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Good morning, everyone. It’s a particular pleasure, Mr. Chairman, to welcome you here to Washington. After two long years of COVID delays, we are finally together and it is a great pleasure.
(Via interpreter) I’m very happy to meet with you in person, face to face, for these meetings, which are of great importance for us and for you.
(In English) We’re hosting this high-level dialogue and elevating our partnership with countries and institutions throughout Africa – because we believe that on the most urgent challenges that we face as well as the opportunities we have before us, Africa will make the difference.
Here today, we’ve already been talking about global events, including Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war on Ukraine, which African institutions and individual African countries have condemned.
When I had a chance to visit Kenya, Nigeria, and Senegal in November, I laid out five areas where our countries’ and peoples’ interests align very powerfully: democracy, peace, security, inclusive economic growth, the climate crisis, and global health security.
And we are working closely with the African Union on each and every one of these issues.
On democracy: in December, President Biden convened the first Summit for Democracy, which included 16 AU Member States that delivered strong pledges. For example, Zambia pledged to improve the independence and transparency of its Electoral Commission. Mauritius pledged to introduce a code of conduct for parliamentarians. In these very practical but important ways, countries around the world, including in Africa, are taking steps to make progress to strengthen and deepen their democracies. We are doing the same thing.
As there continue to be challenges to democracy throughout the continent, the AU has responded with strong action, both through efforts to restore democracy in Mali, in Burkina Faso, in Guinea, and through its decision to suspend the membership of countries that – where democratic governments have been overthrown.
We’ve admired the African Union’s tireless work to advance peace and security – we talked about this at some length just a while ago – especially by supporting fragile transitions in Sudan and Chad and addressing the conflict in Ethiopia.
We’ve supported these efforts with robust diplomatic engagement, capacity-building programs, technical assistance for continental early-warning systems, which monitor and identify conflicts in their earliest stages so that they can be addressed immediately. We’re also actively supporting the AU Mission in Somalia with intelligence, with surveillance, with reconnaissance capabilities.
On inclusive economic growth, maybe the most fundamental and foundational thing, so necessary to ensuring a positive and productive future, challenges in peace to security often stem from the same place, a lack of economic opportunity. And I thought in our conversation already today, the chairman was especially eloquent on this point. We’re partnering with the AU, African governments and businesses, entrepreneurs, civil society, our own private sector, and international financial institutions to try to make investments that will spark greater growth and opportunity, like access to reliable infrastructure and electricity.
We talked about the need to, for example when it comes to COVID and future pandemics, having production capacity in Africa for vaccines and for all of the other things that are necessary to deal with global health and global health security.
We’re also mindful that Russia’s war of choice on Ukraine threatens to cause food shortages, higher food prices across Africa in the coming months – we’re committed to finding ways to address these challenges together.
We’re ready to intensify our engagement with the African Continental Free Trade Secretariat to increase mutually beneficial trade and investment opportunities between us. We hope to expand the relationship – for example, on intellectual property protections – so that we can further unlock the power of creative industries across Africa. And we’re aligning our efforts with the AU’s Digital Transformation Strategy, to boost tech companies and sectors across the continent. I think there – this is an area of extraordinary opportunity that we have to seize.
One example: we’re supporting Hotspot Network Limited. This is a Nigerian company that’s expanding digital access for literally millions of Nigerians living in rural communities. We’re helping Hotspot study Nigeria’s rural communications infrastructure so that it can deploy 2,000 mobile network stations and connect these communities with reliable digital services – and in turn, connect them to the digital global economy.
I got a chance to see this company and some others during my visit. It’s incredibly powerful. We see the force of innovation, of ingenuity, of entrepreneurship. And if we can help that flourish, it’s going to be to the benefit of people everywhere, starting in Africa.
On the climate crisis, we are coordinating our progress to – our programs, excuse me – to support the AU’s Continental Climate Change Strategy, to find new ways to help countries across Africa adapt to and manage the impacts of climate change.
For example, the “Conserving Critical Congo Basin Forests” program will provide technical support for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Congo Basin countries to promote sustainable agriculture and preserve the land, which is vital, because the entire planet – the entire planet – relies on the Congo Basin to absorb carbon from the atmosphere. Whether it’s the Congo Basin, whether it’s the Amazon, preserving these places is one of the most vital and important things we can do in actually dealing with the climate crisis. And so we’re committed to working on that.
And let me say as well – we discussed this earlier – we understand, President Biden deeply understands our own responsibility to help provide the support necessary for countries to engage in the adaptation and resilience building that is necessary to deal with the climate challenge. And we are working on making sure that for our part, the resources are available to support that work. It’s a responsibility that we take with great seriousness.
Finally, we’re working together to combat the pandemic, as I mentioned, and to strengthen global health security for the future.
And here – and it comes to why we’re actually here at these tables – we’re grateful for the AU’s partnership, especially – especially – for coordinating vaccine donations and managing the continent’s COVID response, which the United States has been proud to support with, to date, 166 million vaccines to countries in Africa, guided by the AU’s Joint Continental Strategy for COVID-19.
The AU is also a vital player in the international community’s efforts to end the pandemic through the COVID-19 Global Action Plan. And here, we’re deeply appreciative of the efforts to strengthen local health institutions, to improve local manufacturing, as I mentioned a moment ago, among the other commitments that we discussed over the last month.
Earlier this week, we saw an example of what’s possible when we work together. Moderna, one of the leading vaccine manufacturers in the world, announced a partnership with the Government of Kenya that will bring production and manufacturing of Moderna mRNA vaccines to Africa, for Africa – with support from American diplomats, public health experts, and financing.
So, together, we’ll take another step forward on public health.
The Memorandum of Cooperation that we’re about to sign supports the AU’s call for a New Public Health Order for Africa. It’s going to expand the public health workforce, establish new institutes for research and development, make it easier for the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Government to work together to stop the next pandemic before it starts.
That’s how we’ll make progress: as partners, as equal partners, working together to deliver concrete results, measurable benefits to our people, on the issues that actually matter the most to them, that are having an impact on their lives. If we can do that together – and I’m convinced that we can – we will have, I think, demonstrated the force of this partnership.
So I’m looking forward to continuing our discussions, Mr. Chairman, today, and to work together not just today but in the weeks, the months, the years ahead.
(Via interpreter) And now you have the floor. Thank you.
CHAIRPERSON FAKI: (Via interpreter) Thank you, Secretary of State. Ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank first of all Secretary of State Antony Blinken for having convened this high-level dialogue between the African Union and the United States, despite the very tight and very busy schedule. You just came back from a very lengthy tour of Europe and with the problem of Ukraine, which is very regrettable.
Mr. Secretary of State, the partnership between the United States and the African Union is a longstanding one and starts producing results. Today, the themes that we have retained for this exchange of views on four areas, which is at the same time a challenge and an opportunity – peace and security and governance, particularly on the African continent, the priority, in addition to the local indigenous problems that is – are like a transition towards greater democracy, more justice. In fact, there has been also (inaudible) a phenomenon of terrorism and violent extremism, which starts gaining ground and destabilize member states.
And in fact, it is even making democracy sort of retreat, and if you look at West Africa, where two, three, four coup d’états have taken place. And the justification for these coup d’état, which is fallacious, that the civilian regimes are not capable of ensuring security and, therefore, the military regime can – which is, naturally, not true.
So it is a priority of the African continent, because on it depends the rest, and it is for this reason, and on the basis of our own architecture for peace and security, the architecture of governance, we, at the level of the Commission of the African Union, the regional economic communities, the member states, and all our partners, we are working on this. We want a stronger commitment of the international community to help Africa to fight against terrorism and violent extremism, which everybody knows are threats to peace and security.
Mr. Secretary of State, this is the responsibility of the UN Security Council of the United – we – trying to analyze in order to take stock of what is being done in the Sahel with the United Nations. Recently we have had a meeting in New York between the United Nations, African Union, ACOA, the G5 Sahel, which is an ad hoc group which, obviously, is fighting against terrorists, and they, in fact, are doing their best in order to face these terrorists.
The United States expected, in more complete terms, to be with us, and to support us, and support the efforts of the African continent. The traditional patterns, with the intervention of foreign forces, have not produced its result. Africa is ready to mobilize its troops. We want our partners to help us with intelligence information, training, materiel, equipment in order to face this phenomenon, which starts assuming alarming proportion from the north of Mali, the Sahel; it has now reached what we call the Gulf of Guinea, which is something which is dangerous.
The second thing which concerns – the health security. And I want to point out and it is with pleasure that we are going to sign the MOU on Africa CDC, and I want to thank the United States, which, in fact, has been at the – the front, and we have transformed the Africa CDC into a specialized agency of the African Union with greater autonomy, with a greater margin of maneuver. It has done excellent work against Ebola, and particularly in the case of COVID-19.
We are a continent of 1.3 billion inhabitants. So therefore, from the health point of view, we have to take all the necessary measures. It is for this reason that we have established the African Medicines Agency, AMA, and our objective, as you have pointed out, is at least to be able to produce, manufacture vaccines in Africa, with the support of the United States and other partners.
I think there are promises, because you cannot think that you can always import for 1.2 billion inhabitants, because the continent produces only 1 percent of vaccine, not only against COVID-19, but against other diseases. And I think it is absolutely necessary.
With regard to climate, the priorities for climate, Africa today is marked by the expression of this climate change – desertification, drought, El Niño, or an alternate between drought and floods. If you look at Madagascar, two or three years ago there was not a drop of rain. And now, suddenly, there are floods today. And this is – takes us to Africa. The continent needs to be supported within the framework of what has been agreed in the Paris Agreement.
The ecological and energy transition is an important approach. We have adhered to the Paris Agreement, but we need to support and help the African continent to adapt. Six hundred million Africans don’t even know what is electricity, and now what you call an ecological transition has no meaning for them, has no sense for them. We are a continent that is not industrial. So we need a transitional phase to enable the financing of some fossil fuel like gas and others in order to allow the (inaudible) a bit and to ensure its development.
The green fund that had promise $100 billion per year, and this has never been achieved. We hope that they will honor the commitments. We are committed to promote renewable energy, but we believe that we need a phase of adaptation – and particularly a support to the whole continent, because this concerns agriculture, it concern livestock, and life itself. So it is a question of development and trade, and investment is more of an opportunity.
Mr. Secretary of State, AGOA was a good thing. Maybe it has to be expanded and maybe deepened, but I believe that the old, present, and future relations with the United States and Africa demand that we go beyond AGOA. A continent of 30 million square kilometers with huge resources, natural resources, with young population – women who are in majority – and are very enterprising, need to be supported and need investments. We have removed from our vocabulary this development aid. What we want is investment and support to the continent so that these economically active forces can improve the living conditions. And I’m sure that the Americans operators – economic operators – and entrepreneurs will find fertile ground for them – and I know that the United States are doing many things and of quality.
The program Agenda 2063, which is our guiding principle – and its objective can be summarized into integration, prosperity, and peace. So the work that we are doing should be supported by our friends, our partners, the United States, and we are ready, Mr. Secretary of State, to work with the United States in all the different areas for a world of peace, stability. And I believe that the current situation should remind us that if the world doesn’t work together, if the values on which we have built international organizations like the United Nations are not respected, then obviously we will be going backwards, and it is not to be excluded. I thank you.
(The Memorandum of Cooperation is signed.)