US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Tuesday started a week-long trip to Africa during which he will visit five African countries, including Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Chad and Nigeria.
The five countries are all involved with efforts to fight terrorism.
A senior State Department official told journalists in a teleconference yesterday that Tillerson was due to start his African tour with a stop in Ethiopia, after which he would head to Djibouti, then Kenya, Chad and, lastly, Nigeria.
Ethiopia, which hosts the secretariat of the African Union, as well as Djibouti and Kenya, are all involved in the fight against al-Shabaab terrorist group in Somalia. Djibouti hosts America’s only permanent military base in Africa, while it also
serves as the refueling point for all U.S naval ships in the region.
The West African nations of Nigeria and Chad, the other two countries on Tillerson’s itinerary, are also involved in an armed campaign against Boko Haram terrorist group and other violent extremist outfits like al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
“We are looking at how these countries can play a really predominant role in growth, because they all have about 8-9 per cent economic growth rates,” Amb. Don Yamamoto, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, said.
He said that Tillerson’s visit will also highlight President Donald Trump’s Africa policy and U.S-Africa partnership strategy.
The visit follows Trump’s meeting with Rwandan President and current chair of the African Union, Paul Kagame, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January this year, during which they discussed bilateral ties as well as relations between Africa and the U.S.
During their meeting, the two leaders underlined the importance of a mutual partnership between Africa and the U.S, and President Trump later sent a message to African Heads of State and Government meeting at a summit in Addis Ababa expressing his government’s commitment to stronger ties with the continent.
While in Ethiopia, Secretary of State Tillerson is also expected to meet Moussa Faki Mahamat, the chairperson of the AU Commission, as well as other AU officials with whom he will discuss “fundamental challenges in South Sudan, DR Congo, Somalia, support for security but, more importantly, economic growth opportunities”.
Speaking to journalists yesterday, Yamamoto said the U.S was looking to help strengthen African institutions.
“We can’t have really robust economic development and addressing the ingenuity, the creativity of the people of Africa, unless we have strong institutions, governance, strong economic institutions that will really ignite and stimulate growth,” he said.
He added: “We’re looking at throughout the continent, a lot of areas we’re having problems over land development and land rights, water rights, ethnic, tribal, religious, geographic issues and challenges and tensions. And so we want to know how we, the United States, can play a role in supporting, resolving of tensions and problems.”
US direct investments in Africa currently stand at about $57 billion, he said.
Tillerson visits Ethiopia at the same time as his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, but Yamamoto said the two men had no plans of meeting during the visit.