Published: Thu, March 08, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

Tillerson aims to show USA cares despite Trump's Africa slur

Tillerson aims to show USA cares despite Trump's Africa slur

In an administration that has often struggled for coherence in its foreign policy, and which lives by the maxim of America First, it would be unrealistic to expect Secretary Tillerson to deliver a transformation in the relationship between USA and Africa.

Tillerson is the highest-ranking USA official to travel to Africa since President Donald Trump took office.

He will spend about a week on the continent visiting countries that play key roles in addressing Africa's security challenges, including Nigeria, Chad and Djibouti, which houses the only permanent US military base in Africa.

The secretary of state added the USA approach of "incentivizing good governance" contrasts sharply with China, "which encourages dependency, using opaque contracts, predatory loan practices and corrupt deals that mire nations in debt and undercut their sovereignty". He said its investment had the potential to improve Africa's infrastructure, but added that its approach had led to mounting debt while creating few jobs.

Representative Chris Smith, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, released a statement that said China's activities and actions on the continent have "propped up kleptocrats and autocrats". Another $110 million was destined for Ethiopia to help amid a drought.

For Tillerson, who did not visit Africa during his first year as the top U.S. diplomat, it may be that the best way to show deference to a continent suspicious of Trump is to listen.

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On top of military expansion, the country also remains visible through infrastructure projects like building shopping malls and soccer stadiums.

The trip comes two months after President Donald Trump triggered a wave of controversy when he reportedly referred to some African nations as "s-hole countries" during an Oval Office meeting on immigration with a bipartisan group of senators.

It falls to Tillerson to mend the damage as he travels to the continent on Tuesday, becoming the most senior United States official to set foot there since Trump took office more than a year ago.

The trip, his first official visit to Africa, as Secretary of State, will begin with a trip to Ethiopia and later to Djibouti from where he will go to Kenya and Chad before coming to Nigeria.

He noted that by the year 2030, Africa would represent about one quarter of the world's workforce and by the year 2050, the population of the continent is expected to double to more than 2.5 billion people - with 70 per cent of them under the age of 30. However, experts highlighted that the visit had no other motivation than to study ways for the United States to be bale to economically benefit even more from Africa, because the grounds of the U.S. foreign policy give priority to capital over any other aspect.

In his speech on Tuesday at George Mason University, Mr Tillerson said the USA has "a longstanding partnership with Kenya".

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