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Blinken seeks partnership with African youth leaders

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference at the Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit for Young African Leaders, Monday, Aug 2, 2023, in Washington.   -  
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Mariam Zuhaib/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved


Secretary of State Antony Blinken told young leaders from Africa Wednesday that collaboration as equal partners is necessary to meet today's challenges of food security, preventing conflict, combating climate change, and slowing the spread of disease.

Blinken made the remarks at a closing ceremony of The Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit in Washington.

"All of you are driving progress on some of the most pressing issues of our time. Issues that face not just Africans, but Americans. People all across our planet," Blinken said.

Blinken told The Mandela Washington Fellows: "Our countries, the United States, our partners in Africa, we can only meet today's challenges. We can only actually deliver results for our people if we collaborate as equal partners."

Blinken spoke Tuesday on the last day of The Summit, which brings together nearly 700 of Sub-Saharan Africa’s promising young leaders to meet and network with each other, U.S. government officials, and private sector and civil society representatives.

He told the young dignitaries from Sub-Saharan Africa that they play an important role in shaping the future of our planet and emphasized that two in every five people on our planet will be young and African by 2030.

The summit's mission is to build relationships that will expand U.S. organizations’ impact and reach in Africa.

"Your optimism, your imagination, your energy. It's not only going to advance the connections between the United States and Africa. It's going to make a difference. Is going to make a difference in your countries. It's going to make a difference around the world," Blinken said.

The Summit is the conclusion of six weeks of academic study and leadership development for the Fellows at 28 higher education institutions as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.

Alumni of the Fellowship are playing a role in enhancing peace and security, spurring economic growth, and strengthening democratic institutions across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Other speakers at the summit were Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Elizabeth Allen, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee, along with government officials, and private sector leaders.

In her opening remarks Under Secretary Allen recognized the ongoing crisis in Niger as European militaries evacuate foreign nationals as regional tensions rise after a military takeover.

"We are obviously very concerned with the events that are unfolding and elsewhere on the continent, which makes the work that leaders like you do all the more important," Allen said.

Foreign nationals departed Niger's capital on the last of four French military evacuation flights late Wednesday after waiting at the airport for hours, while defense officials of a regional bloc gathered to discuss how to respond to last week’s military coup in the West African nation.

France, Italy and Spain all announced evacuations of their citizens and other Europeans in the capital, Niamey, following concerns they could become trapped after soldiers detained President Mohamed Bazoum and seized power.

The Biden administration has yet to announce any decision on evacuation for American forces, diplomats, aid workers and other U.S. citizens in Niger, an important counter-terror base for the United States in the Sahel.

U.S. officials have stayed engaged in trying to roll back the armed takeover, with Secretary Blinken calling Niger’s president late Tuesday to express “continued unwavering support.”

A U.S. pullout from Niger would risk Washington’s longstanding counter-terror investments in the West African country, including a major air base in Agadez that is key to efforts against armed extremists across the Sahara and Sahel.

Leaving Niger would also risk yielding the country to the influence of Russia and its Wagner mercenary group, which already have a significant presence in Mali, the Central African Republic and Sudan.

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