Blinken says US is investing in Africa without unsustainable debt

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DAKAR, Nov.20 (Reuters) – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday said his country was investing in Africa without imposing unsustainable levels of debt, as it watched contracts worth more than billion dollars in the Senegalese capital Dakar.

The deals between four US companies and Senegal are billed as part of his country’s discourse to help Africa build infrastructure with transparent and sustainable deals. Read more

Careful not to directly criticize Chinese infrastructure projects, which have proliferated across the continent over the past decade, Blinken said during a visit to Nigeria on Friday that international agreements were too often opaque and coercive.

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The United States invests “without imposing on the country a debt that it cannot manage”, he declared during the signing ceremony with the Senegalese Minister of the Economy, Amadou Hott.

He said he was deeply concerned about the stability of neighboring Mali, which has seen two coups d’état in the past 18 months, and that the upcoming elections in that country must follow a timetable set by the regional bloc of the ECOWAS.

Earlier this month, ECOWAS, West Africa’s main political and economic bloc, imposed sanctions on Malian transition leaders, after advising the organization that they could not organize a presidential and legislative elections in February.

“We look forward to resuming the full range of assistance as soon as this democratically elected government takes office,” Blinken told reporters.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Senegalese Minister of Economy, Planning and International Cooperation Amadou Hott observe Cubic Transportation Systems Vice President and General Manager Jeff Price and CETUD General Manager Thierno Birahim sign an agreement at a trade diplomacy event with US companies and the government of Senegal at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Dakar, Senegal on November 20, 2021. Andrew Harnik / Pool via REUTERS

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Reuters reported in September that the Malian military junta was in talks about deploying a Russian military subcontractor, the Wagner Group, to Mali to help fight a growing Islamist insurgency. Read more

“It would be particularly unfortunate if outside actors were committed to making things even more difficult and complicated and I am thinking in particular of groups like the Wagner group,” said Blinken.

‘ILLUSORY PROVOCATION’

Blinken said the United States had real concerns, widely shared with its European partners, about Russia’s “unusual activity” on the Ukrainian border, after Ukraine said it feared Russia was preparing an attack.

“We know the strategy of trying to cite an illusory provocation from Ukraine or any other country and use it as an excuse to do what Russia planned to do from the start,” Blinken said.

Intensive diplomacy was underway to end the civil conflict in Ethiopia, he said, where Washington continues to push for an immediate end to hostilities without preconditions and without humanitarian access to millions of people in the north.

During a visit to the Biomedical Research Center at the Institut Pasteur in Dakar, Blinken said the United States was working with partners to generate more funding for the manufacture of vaccines in Senegal.

In October, BioNTech (22UAy.DE) signed an agreement with the Institut Pasteur in Dakar and the Rwandan government to build the first mRNA vaccine facilities in Africa, starting in mid-2022.

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Reporting by Bate Felix; written by Hereward Holland; edited by Christina Fincher and Ros Russell

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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