U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave a speech on the key U.S. strategy for sub-Saharan Africa at the University of Pretoria on Monday, on the first leg of his Africa trip.
Blinken stressed the value of democracy and the threats to it in his address, saying Africa was an “equal partner” that the U.S. wanted to work with and would not “dictate to.”
“By 2050, 1 in 4 people on the planet we share will be African. They will shape the destiny, not only of this continent, but of the world,” he said.
Blinken spoke about the blow the pandemic has dealt to Africa and economies on the continent, as well as food insecurity he said had been deepened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
He also addressed a wide range of issues, including conflict prevention, misinformation online, science and technology, as well as climate change and clean energy.
VOA spoke to several South African students, asking their thoughts on the address by America’s top diplomat.
Zaphesheya Dlamini, who has just finished a master’s degree in political science, was skeptical.
“Listen — every single foreign policy, every single national interest, is always going to be their national interest. It’s not ours, we know that. But then don’t try and present it like it’s a shared interest,” Dlamini said.
She also thought Blinken didn’t address how U.S. domestic politics influence the rest of the world. She referenced the overturning of the U.S. landmark case Roe v. Wade, which protected a woman’s right to an abortion, and the Global Gag Rule, which prohibits foreign nongovernmental organizations that receive U.S. funding from providing legal abortion services or referrals, as examples of things she thought he should have spoken about.
International relations student Billy Botshabelo Manama, 22, said Blinken’s speech heavily promoted good governance, which he acknowledged had sometimes been a problem on the continent.
“Look — a lot has been mentioned on democracy, rightfully so, looking at the history of Africa,” Manama said.
Manama added that he believed that like the U.S., South Africa also stood for equality and human rights.