Low Expectations for Secretary Tillerson's Trip to Africa

Posted March 10, 2018

The United States will give more than US$533 million (RM2.079 billion) in humanitarian aid for victims of conflicts and drought in Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, and South Sudan, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Tuesday. Prior to his arrival in Ethiopia, the White House reported that the tour had been oriented to foster cooperation and mutual respect, based on understanding.

"But more important is the potential for high rates of unemployment if we don't position ourselves now to look at how we can develop Africa and be a part of that development and really the opportunity".

Tillerson is the topmost diplomat from the U.S. to visit Africa after the election of President Donald Trump.

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He stated that his visit will also focus on strengthening American partnership with the African countries and its people.

Tillerson made the announcement at a speech in Virginia before departing for a week-long trip to several African countries.

Trump has authorised the use of more aggressive USA military operations in Somalia and the deaths of four US soldiers in Niger past year shone a spotlight on increasing USA counter-terrorism engagement in West Africa.

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Mr. Tillerson will meet with Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari and also leaders of Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya during his travels from March 6 to 13. "His visit is also an opportunity to encourage Kenya's leaders to engage with citizens from across the political spectrum on political, economic, electoral, and security issues".

In addition, the U.S.is also very concerned about the recent ethnic fighting between Oromo and Somali ethnic groups that has displaced almost one million people, and the subject is certain to come up during the meeting.

"Neither Trump or Tillerson has announced an overarching Africa policy. And the Chinese have understood it and have been more proactive and aggressive in a way that it's benefiting them", Brahima Coulibaly, the director of the Africa Growth Initiative at Brookings Institution, said, commenting on the trip. Further, the Trump administration has yet to articulate a distinctive policy toward Africa. There is still no assistant secretary of state for Africa, no USA ambassador to South Africa, and numerous other Africa-related positions remain unfilled. Trump has not named an assistant secretary for Africa to oversee the continent, nor an ambassador to key countries like South Africa. "He received support from the commander of USA military forces in Africa, who advocated Tuesday for a stronger diplomatic arm on the continent..." This rhetoric implies little change in the USA agenda in Africa since the end of the cold war and may reflect apparent White House disengagement and disinterest in the world's second largest continent. The energy behemoth has significant business dealings in sub-Saharan Africa, including in Chad, Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea.

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