MS FRAZER: Secretary Blinken, you have been at the forefront at calling for a shift from reactive and often crisis-driven security approaches in Africa to collaborative and sustainable strategies. President Bazoum has discussed how Niger is confronting immediate and serious threats from terrorism, climate, and extreme poverty while simultaneously safeguarding the long-term future of his country. Can you speak to the linkage between building and sustaining democratic institutions and good governance and realizing long-term peace and prosperity? What could be practically done through U.S. partnerships, sir?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Jendayi, thank you very, very much. And first, it’s really an honor to share this platform with the three presidents and also with my friend the chairman, Chairman Faki. They are each evidence of the difference that leadership can make in tackling these challenges. And really, I want to pick up from where Lloyd left off and also reflect on some of the things that I heard our colleagues say and that I took note of.
Look, I think the link between actually having sustainable peace and sustainable opportunity and development, good governance and institutions, is very clear. The real question is how to get there and how to get there in effect when, as our friend from Niger has said, you’re trying to do it while you’re flying the plane at 60,000 feet. And you’re trying to do it at a time when virtually all of the challenges we face are interconnected and unfortunately reinforcing each other. And you just heard Lloyd talk about this and others talk about this, whether it is the combination of climate, food insecurity, energy insecurity that in different ways drive migration, drive fights over resources, drive conflict – all of these things reinforcing each other.
The challenge for governance is to be able to deal with them effectively in the moment, but at the same time get the balance right so that we’re also dedicating resources, time, and attention to trying to build a stronger foundation – a stronger foundation of good governance, of strong institutions, of development, not simply emergency humanitarian response. That’s what makes peace sustainable. That’s what makes opportunity real.
So I think one of the things that we’re driving at, as we’re thinking about this with our African colleagues, is how do we do this more effectively in partnership with Africa. You heard the Secretary of Defense say this: the solutions that are made just in the United States are not likely to be sustainable. We’re focused on listening to our partners: What are their needs? What are local requirements? How do we build together on that basis? That’s one critically important thing, and it animates everything we’re doing.
Second, we’re looking at making genuine investments because, again, a response to the immediate is necessary, but it is insufficient and it’s not a long-term solution. We’re dealing now with a massive food insecurity crisis. It’s the product of a lot of things, as we all know. It’s the product of climate change. It’s the product of COVID. It’s a product, unfortunately, of conflict, including Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. And so we have an immediate emergency response, especially as we’re looking at historic, alas, droughts in different places. We’re looking at famine conditions in a number of countries, and the United States has been leading the way on that.
But what I have heard time and again, especially talking to African colleagues – we brought together leaders from around the world back in May at the Security Council, when we were in the presidency of the Security Council, and focused on food insecurity. And in a session that I had with African colleagues the thing I heard again and again and again is, yes, we need to address the emergency situation, but what we want even more is a genuine investment in our own productive capacity and our own self-sufficiency. So that’s driving, for example, the Feed the Future program that we have. It’s driving a lot of the work that we’re doing around the world.
Same thing on global health. We’ve been – we’ve gone through this pandemic, and what we know from that is it’s insufficient simply to deal with the immediate challenge. We have to help put in place – and have to help Africa put in place – the foundations to be able to deal with that themselves going forward, so that there’s not a reliance on others to build the productive capacity. So we’ve helped establish, from South Africa to Senegal, the capacity to, for example, produce vaccines in Africa for Africans.
We’re investing in young people. As everyone knows, the majority of the population in Africa is young. We have been going back to initiatives that President Obama started invested in young African leaders. There are now 700,000 young Africans who are part of the YALI Network virtually. It’s incredibly powerful because it’s building connections between them, among them, and building out partnerships for the future. A big piece of this is the investments we’re making in women and girls, something we can talk about at greater length.
And then finally, I would say that there’s no one model of good governance. There’s no one model for how to build strong institutions. I think we have to be informed by each other. We have to be informed by local conditions, local needs. And from the perspective of the United States, this is also not about a competition with others. This is not about saying to our friends and partners you have to choose. This is about offering a genuine choice, offering a genuine partnership, and hopefully together building a race to the top, not a race to the bottom. That’s what we’re animated by. We put out a Strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa a few months ago, and it really does bring together the three pieces that are represented here.
The last thing I’ll say is this. It’s interesting, when you’re in the Situation Room, as you know very well, oftentimes the diplomats are saying gosh, we could use a little bit more defense and security or a little bit more development, and then the secretary of defense is saying we need some more diplomacy to deal with this. And so we’re constantly playing off of each other, but it’s really increasingly in response to what we’re hearing from our friends, from our colleagues, from our partners. That’s what animating us. That’s the only way I think we’re going to be successful in building this plane as our friends are flying it at 60,000 feet.
MS FRAZER: Yes. Thank you very much, Secretary Blinken, and thank you very much for putting the emphasis on the quality of the partnership, the content of that partnership, the nature of that partnership, and what the United States is doing to build it with all of Africa.