Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Africa this week with stops in Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal. He is the highest-ranking Biden administration official to visit sub-Saharan Africa as parts of the continents struggle with military coup attempts and destabilization.

Rachel Beatty Riedl, director of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, is an expert on governance and politics with a regional focus in Sub-Saharan Africa. Riedl says this is a key moment for the U.S. to affirm support for core democratic practices and pledge a partnership based on citizens’ well-being.

Riedl says:

“This is a key moment for the U.S. to demonstrate a commitment to partnership based on shared values of citizens’ well-being and democratic rights.

“With presidential elections scheduled in Kenya for 2022, Nigeria in 2023, and Senegal in 2024, the stakes for democratic support couldn’t be higher. Incumbent presidents, opposition parties, the media, civil society, and the bureaucratic units of the state all need to hear the U.S. affirm support for core democratic practices, at a time when global symbols of democratic ideals have been challenged. 

“Strong partnerships across the continent should focus on a ‘democracy, human rights, and governance’ strategy as a pillar of other shared goals. In Nigeria, this period leading up to the polling is a crucial time for American support for regional and national approaches to public health and security, sustainable economic growth and public service provision. 

“American interests align in entrepreneurship, infrastructure, and innovation, and these have to be buttressed on a foundation of good governance and accountability. This is a message the U.S. can share from experience and as it looks to its own future.”