Secretary Antony J. Blinken at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Foreign Ministers Dinner

F.P. Report

Washington, D.C: Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State has said that So I can make this very simple and easy and quick:  What he said.  Thank you.  (Laughter.)


But I feel an obligation to add just a little bit.  First of all, welcome.  It is wonderful to see so many friends – colleagues – here in this room.  To those of you who haven’t been here before, this is actually – Strive, this is the top floor, and this is the Benjamin Franklin Room.


Benjamin Franklin is looking down on us this evening.  He was, as many of you know, America’s very first diplomat.  He signed our first treaty, our first alliance, with France.  He charted the Gulf Stream.  He pioneered electricity.  He gave us our ethos of self-government.  And virtually none of this did he do while sober.  (Laughter.)  So I invite you to be inspired by our first diplomat.


A warm welcome to all of our dinner guests, especially, again, my colleagues and counterparts from African nations.  It’s been one of the great pleasures of my tenure in this job working with each of you, and I’m so pleased that we’re here together this week in Washington to continue that work.  Thank you for your engagement, thank you for your leadership throughout this summit and everything leading up to it, and the many priorities that have been vital to our partnership.


And thank you as well to the business leaders who are here with us tonight.  Thank you for bringing your ingenuity, your energy to our shared work.  Indeed, there are few issues that we’ve been talking about these last couple of days that we can solve without the engagement of the business community.


And to the assistant secretary, Molly, thank you not just for your dedication, shared by so many here at the State Department, but to the work that you’re doing every single day and that our team is doing every single day not just to make this summit a success, but to strengthen the relationships that are at the foundation of the summit.


It really is not easy to follow Strive.  Talk about someone who’s made a profound difference, a real difference, in thousands and thousands of lives – scholarships for tens of thousands of orphaned children, mobilizing billions of dollars to support African farmers, leading the fight against HIV/AIDs, against Ebola, and more recently against COVID-19.


And now, to my great gratitude, he’s turning to the challenge of long-term food security on the continent, a mission that the United States shares and is joining him to advance.


The millions of lives that Strive has touched are a testament to the immense potential, the immense potential for good that can be created when the business community and governments actually work together.


And that’s what tonight is all about.


Partnership is at the heart of President Biden’s strategy for Africa – partnerships between the United States and African nations, with the private sector, and between our people.


And in a sense, it’s as simple as this:  The challenges and the opportunities of this moment, from climate change to the clean energy transition, public health, economic opportunity, peace and security – these aren’t African issues or American issues.  They’re global priorities, and the best way that we can address them, the best way we can be effective, is together, bringing the full force of our combined, collaborative efforts, including the efforts of the business community.


I can think of no more compelling demonstration of the power of these partnerships than the successful collaborations between the countries and companies that are here in this room.


Take the work of the Kenyan Government, which is teaming up with Varian to help millions access life-saving cancer care.


Benin and Egypt, working with Citi to issue Sustainable Development Goal and green bonds that will help finance clean energy projects directly benefiting their citizens.


The small businesses and innovators across the continent who are working with Visa to access financing and global markets.


Or take what governments and business are doing together to end the COVID-19 pandemic and better prepare us for future health emergencies.


Right now, the public and private sectors are working with the World Health Organization in South Africa to create the first COVID-19 mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub.  This ensures that we’re not only providing emergency aid to African countries, but we’re investing – investing in future tech know-how and production in Africa, by Africans, with all of the health, science, and economic benefits that this brings.


And this really is at the heart of our thinking and it’s at the heart, as well, of what Strive is doing.  Yes, of course, we all have to face and deal with emergency situations.  We’re acutely aware of that and acutely invested in that.  But even more important is making these investments in sustainable capacity in Africa for the long term, so that whether it comes to dealing with climate, whether it comes to dealing with COVID and global health, whether it comes to dealing with food security, that capacity exists for the long term in Africa.  That’s what this is all about and what we have to be about together.


These partnerships are not simply or merely financial deals.  They are actual solutions to some of the toughest and most important challenges that we face and that we have to face as a global community.  They’re also critical for increasing trade and investment between the United States and African nations to the benefit of all of us, and you’ve heard us talk about this today.  You heard President Biden address this in some detail today.


To try to accelerate that progress, the administration is taking a number of steps, including advocating for American business, driving U.S. private sector investment to growth industries in Africa, correcting misperceptions about risk, and working with African partners to strengthen the business climate in their countries.


I want to thank especially my friend and colleague, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, for her tireless work on this front.  She and her team are doing incredible things to make this real.  This is where the rubber meets the road, and we’re so grateful for the partnership that we have with our colleagues at Commerce and with Secretary Raimondo.  Gina, thank you for everything you’re doing.  (Applause.)


Finally, you may have heard me say this before, but I think it always bears repeating:  Africa is a major geopolitical force.  It’s one that has shaped our past, it’s shaping our present, and it will shape our future.


It’s a demographic reality.  It’s an economic reality.  And it’s a reality that’s reflected in the incredible dynamism and vitality of African nations, of their people, and the companies that do business on the continent.


If we work together, if we harness those strengths, I am confident – more than confident – that we really can chart a more prosperous and more secure future for all of our citizens.


So there’s a lot to be done day in, day out that makes good business sense, but believe me when I say beyond the business sense there’s a higher calling here, one that can make genuine progress for millions and millions of people.  It’s where convenience and conviction come together, and all of you in this room are a big part of that story, a story I hope we can all tell together.


Thank you so much for being here this evening.  (Applause.)