Blinken embarks on second African tour in the face of growing Russian influence

The presence of the Wagner group, as well as Chinese influence on the continent, destabilises the US role on the African continent

REUTERS/JOSHUA ROBERTS  -   Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State

US diplomacy continues its roadmap. This time it is the turn of Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who has begun his second tour of Africa, with the aim of curbing both Chinese and Russian influence on the continent, even more so with the growing presence of the Wagner group.

The first country Blinken visited was South Africa. It is in South Africa that the Secretary of State presented "the US strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa" in a plan that, according to the State Department, "reinforces the US view that African countries are critical geostrategic actors and partners on the most pressing issues of our time". 

In this context, it was in Pretoria that Blinken sought to emphasise and reinforce bilateral cooperation between the United States and South Africa, as one of Washington's most important trading partners in Africa. Like many other African countries, South Africa has been neutral in condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which is why the United States has sought to strengthen its diplomatic presence in the country as a "partner" and "ally".

As one of the most economically developed African countries, South Africa is also a country that can offer important trade opportunities, especially in a continent where the United States has seen its presence weakened by both China - as one of the main trading partners in Africa - and Russia, which is trying to expand its influence, especially in the military sphere. 

In this vein, and before travelling to South Africa, Blinken announced on his Twitter account that the US had provided "almost 6.6 billion dollars in humanitarian assistance to Africa", in an attempt to emphasise what it means to have a partner like the US present on the continent. 

AFP/CAROL VALADE  - A man holds a pro-Russian banner reading "Russia will save Donbass from war" in Bangui on February 23, 2022 during a pro-Russian demonstration

Blinken is expected to travel to Johannesburg on Tuesday to coincide with the country's National Women's Day celebrations. She will also visit the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on 9 and 10 August, where she will meet with senior Congolese government officials as well as representatives of civil society. With them, he will address issues of common interest such as ensuring free, fair and inclusive elections in 2023.

He will also try to support the different African regional efforts to promote peace in the east of the country, where there is significant instability due to the widespread presence of different armed groups and terrorists. For the Secretary of State, the objectives to be achieved in Rwanda are to seek "the role that the Government of Rwanda can play in reducing tensions and ongoing violence in eastern DRC". Alongside this, he will try to include his "concerns about democracy and human rights". 

PHOTO/BRICS  - Forced by circumstances, the leaders of the BRICS nations will meet by videoconference on 9 September under the chairmanship of India. Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, Jair Bolsonaro, Narendra Modi and South Africa's Cyril Ramaphosa at their 2019 Brazil meeting

This second tour by Blinken follows Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's trip to Egypt, Uganda, Ethiopia and the Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazaville) in July, during which Lavrov told a press conference with the Ugandan president that 'the role of the African continent in our foreign policy will increase and will do so in a significant way' and that this would 'happen regardless of what happens in relations with the West'.

Both diplomatic tours come at a particularly difficult time for the continent after Russia's invasion of Ukraine affected the price of commodities, as well as food itself, leading to a worrying food crisis for which no solution is yet in sight. For the time being, following an agreement reached between Russia and Ukraine, the port of Odessa has managed to end the blockade imposed by the Kremlin, allowing four more ships loaded with cereals and grains to sail in order to alleviate food shortages.

Americas Coordinator: José Antonio Sierra.