UP hosts Minister Naledi Pandor and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken as he lays out strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa

Posted on August 10, 2022

United States Secretary of State Antony J Blinken thanked the leadership of the University of Pretoria for hosting his delegation at its Future Africa Institute campus on Monday, 8 August, saying it was a fitting venue to spell out his country’s strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa.

Secretary Blinken was full of praise for South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor, whom he described affectionately as “my friend”.

“Madam Minister, my friend Naledi, thank you for that generous introduction. But thank you especially for the partnership that we’ve been building, not just between our countries but, actually, between ourselves, something I value tremendously. And I thank you for it,” he said.

Blinken said it was wonderful to be back in South Africa, and he has had the privilege of visiting several times before, including with President Bill Clinton, President Barack Obama, and then Vice-President Joe Biden.

“And the impressions from those visits are very much seared into my own memory.”

Blinken told guests in the auditorium and those attending virtually that it was an honour to set out the US government’s new strategy for the partnership between Sub-Saharan Africa and the United States. “It’s a strategy that builds on the broad vision for our nation’s engagement of the region, which I had an opportunity to share last November in Nigeria.”

“And it is fitting to set out the strategy here, on the Future Africa campus, an institution whose mission is bringing together people from different disciplines, backgrounds, and nationalities to tackle some of the most vexing challenges of our time.”

Secretary Blinken said the future depends on young people, like the scholars and practitioners who come to study at UP. “And, as you’ve heard, by 2050, one in four people on the planet we share will be African. They will shape the destiny not only of this continent but of the world.”

Again alluding to the warm relationship with his counterpart, Minister Pandor, Secretary Blinken said in 1956, 156 activists were rounded up for rallying support for the Freedom Charter, a document that had the audacity to claim that South Africa belonged to its people. “When the Treason Trial began here in Pretoria, the accused included one of the Charter’s drafters, Professor ZK Matthews, and a rising ANC activist, Joe Matthews – father and son, and grandfather and father to the woman who today serves as South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor.

“And maybe just as important for this audience, that ‘Doctor’ before the minister’s name was earned here at the University of Pretoria,” he said.

Professor Sunil Maharaj  and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Dr Naledi Pandor

UP's Professor Sunil Maharaj and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Dr Naledi Pandor. 

Secretary Blinken noted the progress also in the achievements of fellow South Africans – the recent triumphs of Banyana Banyana, the Springboks, the enduring musical influences of Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela, the new sway of amapiano and DJs like Black Coffee, who just took home a Grammy.

The Secretary said that the strategy is rooted in the recognition that Sub-Saharan Africa is a major geopolitical force, one that shaped the past, is shaping the present, and will shape the future. It’s a strategy that reflects the region’s complexity – its diversity, its power and influence – and one that focuses on what we will do with African nations and peoples, not for African nations and peoples.

Put simply, he said the United States and African nations can’t achieve any shared priorities without equal partnership; whether that’s recovering from the pandemic, creating broad-based economic opportunity, addressing the climate crisis, expanding energy access, revitalising democracies, strengthening the free and open international order. “We can’t do any of that if we don’t work together as equal partners.”

Outlining the four priorities at the heart of the US strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa, Blinken said the US plans to foster openness, “by which we mean the capacity of individuals, communities, and nations to choose their own path and shape the world we live in”.

“When leaders of newly independent African nations came together in 1963 to establish the Organisation of African Unity, the predecessor to the African Union, here’s how they began their charter: “Convinced that it is the inalienable right of all people to control their own destiny.”

“The United States will not dictate Africa’s choices. Neither should anyone else. The right to make these choices belongs to Africans, and Africans alone,” he said.

The second priority involves working with African partners to fulfil the promise of democracy as the overwhelming majority of people across Africa prefer democracy to any other form of government. Even greater majorities oppose the authoritarian alternatives to democracy. Blinken said more than 70% reject military rule; more than 80% reject one-man rule, according to the Africa-based polling organisation Afrobarometer.

Thirdly, he said the US will work together to recover from the devastation wrought by COVID-19 and lay the foundation for broad-based, sustainable economic opportunity to improve the lives of our people. “We know the pandemic has dealt a devastating blow to Africa – lives lost, livelihoods shattered. More than 55 million Africans have been driven into poverty by the pandemic, setting back decades of hard-earned progress. The economic pain has been deepened by Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine.”

The final area where the partnership is crucial is leading on clean energy transition that saves our planet, adapts to the effects of climate change, and provides energy to power economic opportunity.

Blinken said the United Nations recognises Africa as the most vulnerable region in the world to the effects of climate.

Telling the audience that if they took a step back and pondered for a minute on the priorities that he set out, the reality is that every single one of them was championed by Africans first – the interconnectedness of our health and our climate, the principle that all nations should have the right to choose their own fate, the idea that inequity within and between nations threatens our shared security and prosperity.

“For decades, African citizens, African countries, the bloc of African nations pushed for these very priorities. And today, to the benefit of people in the United States and all nations, these are the world’s priorities,” he said to applause.

Earlier, UP Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Sunil Maharaj was thanked for a comprehensive overview of the work undertaken by the University by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Pandor, who welcomed Secretary Blinken. “Welcome to the University of Pretoria, I think I earned my stripes and I’m able to say that,” she said. Dr Pandor received a doctorate Education from UP in April 2019. 

“This is one of our premier higher education institutions in the country. We have a number of universities which are building a very positive profile as research-intensive institutions. The University of Pretoria is one of these, it is producing one of the highest numbers of PhDs in the country as well as masters and honours graduates.”

Blinken also met South African President Cyril Ramaphosa earlier in the day to strengthen the enduring ties and advance shared global priorities through the US-South Africa Strategic Dialogue. The Secretary noted that South Africa – as a leading global voice, a strong constitutional democracy, a G20 member, and a scientific, cultural, and tech leader – is essential to global progress on COVID-19, climate, global health, democracy, and regional security.

“The Secretary thanked President Ramaphosa for hosting him and his delegation in South Africa and emphasised that the United States is committed to continuing this robust, dynamic, and mutually beneficial partnership,” said spokesperson Ned Price.

Published by Hlengiwe Mnguni

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