The Africa Cup of Nations finals hosted by Ivory Coast drew mass attendance. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken included the tournament on his itinerary for a four-nation tour on the continent’s Atlantic coast, including Cape Verde, Nigeria and Angola.
Turmoil in the Red Sea has underscored the strategic importance of this region, as ships diverted away from the Suez Canal amid attacks from Houthi militants instead go around the Cape of Good Hope.
And so, with the security of Atlantic Africa rising on the global agenda, Washington’s top diplomat arrived in the region amid a wider flurry of diplomatic action. It showed the extent of the struggle for geopolitical influence among its nations and from major world powers.
Blinken was warmly received in four of its capitals, which the US views as key allies as it seeks to shape a new world order at a time of global crises — from Gaza to Ukraine. Africa will be an important part of this process, with the continent’s 54 votes at the United Nations General Assembly influencing it.
I joined the Ivoirian Foreign Minister for today’s Africa Cup of Nations match against Equatorial Guinea. As a lifelong soccer fan, it was great to feel the energy of all the fans in the arena. pic.twitter.com/vpzd3veGxQ— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) January 23, 2024
There has been competition from the US, alongside its Western allies, with other global powers over Africa, most significantly Russia and China, amid the political polarisation the world has seen in recent years, making Africa a political hot spot.
Moscow has used its friendly relations with some countries in the global south to avoid further economic sanctions after it invaded Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Washington has failed to win any recognition for Taiwan's independence from African and Middle Eastern countries, which remain committed to China, which views the island as a breakaway province.
Western pressures have also failed to dissuade South Africa from bringing a case against Israel in the International Criminal Court, accusing Tel Aviv of crimes against humanity and genocide against Palestinians.