PRESIDENT OUATTARA:  (Via interpreter) Ladies and gentlemen, this is an honor for me to welcome Mr. Blinken, Secretary of State – that is the minister of state, minister of foreign affairs from U.S.A. side – in this occasion of his visit.

So we had a pleasant meeting.  We have been good and happy to confirm exceptional partnership between U.S.A. and Côte d’Ivoire.  And I mentioned the fact that we do appreciate the support by U.S.A. and President Biden for what has been done and what will be – it continues to be done for our country in the health, food security, digitalization.  And we discussed in all the fields of cooperation, and we have a joint vision, (inaudible) continent vision given the fact that our subregion is in need of security with those coup d’états in some of nearby countries of Côte d’Ivoire.  And we agreed that those countries will move forward toward democratic regimes.  Like U.S.A., we are very committed to (inaudible), and do all that can improve the daily life of the population.  And security in the subregion is challenging somehow, so we do appreciate U.S.A. for their support.

In the area of intelligence and the fight against terrorism, and we consider that at international level, we are sorry about the current crisis in Ukraine – invasion of Ukraine by Russia – and also the situation in Gaza.  We do hope that the peace will come back soon to allow Palestinians to have a territory, as this has been demanded by the United Nations and the whole world.

I would like to conclude by handing over to you and – before all, commend you on your visit.  And on this occasion of the AFCON, and you know this is a great celebration of hospitality.  We have been sorry about what happened, but we will manage.  We will improve since we have a very young team over here that will improve.  I’m telling (inaudible) not to be discouraged.  Like the first president (inaudible) was familiar saying it, discouraging is not (inaudible).  We won that cup two times – 1992 as I was the prime minister, 2008 – ’15, recently.  And I am sure that we will win the third cup.  Thank you very much.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  (Via interpreter) Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you for having us today for this very long and very good conversation that, as you said, touched upon all of the topics that are important to us bilaterally and regionally or globally.  And I would like to speak to the question at the match yesterday.  Someone said soccer is life, with ups and downs.  And what I saw was a young team with a lot of talent.  The elephants have long memories, and they also have a lot of capacities for the future.  And I know that we will be seeing them again on the continent and around the world.  I’m very confident of that.  (Applause.)

If I may, I will continue in English for our colleagues of the press.

(In English) As I said to Mr. President, I thanked him for both a long but also very productive conversation across a whole variety of subjects that join our countries together, the Côte d’Ivoire and the United States, both on a bilateral, a regional, and indeed a global basis.  I’m here, as you know, as part of a four-country tour that took us to Cabo Verde yesterday, here in Côte d’Ivoire, and then on to Nigeria and to Angola.  And we’re here for a very simple reason, because America and Africa’s futures, their peoples, their prosperity are linked, linked and joined as never before.  African voices are shaping our shared future, shared future on a planet where, in the years ahead, one out of every four people on this planet will be from Africa, and we see increasingly African countries leading on issues of global consequence.

The United States is committed to growing our partnerships across the continent.  This is something that President Biden is very focused on.  We had the African Leaders Summit in Washington last year, but the President was determined that, as important and successful as that leaders summit was – the three days that people were together – it was the 362 days that followed where we’re really following through on the agreements we’ve reached and the commitments we’ve made that mattered most of all.

Now the United States and Côte d’Ivoire have a strong and growing bond, and we see that in virtually every area.  We want to invest, to continue to invest in the foundations of Côte d’Ivoire’s prosperity, its health, its environment, and its future.  We have a half-billion-dollar Millennium Challenge Corporation compact building a major road and school infrastructure.  We’re supporting construction of new hospitals to lower maternal mortality.  And we continue to invest in ways to reach HIV epidemic control, to detect and respond to infectious diseases that we saw ravaged our planet just in the last few years.

The president and I also had an opportunity to talk about our growing commercial ties.  This is something that will create more jobs, and it will power broad-based growth for both of our countries.  We’ve already seen remarkable economic success in Côte d’Ivoire, with exceptional growth rates at a time when the world economy has been challenged, and despite even the challenges that Cote d’Ivoire has in its own region, in the north and elsewhere.  But here, we are about to add at our mission a Foreign Commercial Service office with the Treasury Department.  We have personnel from the Development Finance Corporation who are here to facilitate investment, to make sure that American investors see win-win opportunities for both of us and can take advantage of them.  And we’re building those partnerships as well under what will be a $500-million-plus agreement with our Export-Import Bank, again to support and to underwrite investment.

One of those partnerships – because it’s something the president really focused on – is in the cyber and digital area, where our companies are setting up a wireless 5G network to manage disaster emergency management, digitizing Ivoirians’ medical records and systems, building what will genuinely be a state-of-the-art carbon neutral data storage facility, and more.  And this will really put the strongest possible foundation under Côte d’Ivoire’s digital future.

Let me just add quickly that of course we spent a good deal of time talking about regional security challenges, and here Côte d’Ivoire is an essential partner – a partner for us, a partner for other countries in the region that are trying to move forward.  We appreciate particularly the leadership shown by Côte d’Ivoire in countering extremism and violence.  We are announcing $45 million in new funding through the U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability for coastal West African states.  With this new investment, the United States will have invested nearly $300 million just over the past two years, instability-focused assistance, in coastal West Africa.

And we’re also working to bolster Côte d’Ivoire’s security capacity.  There’s been an increase in training – multiplied 15 times – training equipment for the military, just over the last year.  We’re expanding civilian forces investment as well.  And I have to applaud the approach that’s been taken by Côte d’Ivoire – working with communities, listening to communities, making sure that their security forces understand the needs, the concerns of local communities, and building security together.  Côte d’Ivoire is showing the way to do that, and I think that can serve as a very powerful model for other countries.

Finally, we noted and applauded the very important leadership of the president in other regional issues, particularly the very hard but important work of trying to return Niger to constitutional order.  We had a long discussion about that.  The bottom line is this: Côte d’Ivoire is a leader in West Africa and on the continent in so many ways, and we feel that in our own partnership.  We look to Côte d’Ivoire for advice, for council, for collaboration.  I hope – I believe, in any event, that we learn a lot from each other.

And let me conclude where I started.  It was – despite the outcome of yesterday’s match, it was remarkable to see people coming from across the continent, and indeed around the world, here to Côte d’Ivoire for the tournament to see all of these extraordinary teams play on the field, but also to learn about, to experience this country.  And I think the investments that were made in helping to receive people, investments that will also help people here in Côte d’Ivoire with new roads, new hospitals, new bridges, all of the infrastructure that’s gone into this, that’s going to have a benefit for years to come.  And I think that as people come and experience Côte d’Ivoire, they’ll want to come back.  I know that I do.

Thank you very much.

U.S. Department of State

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