7 March 2018

Africa: Rex Tillerson's Visit to Show U.S Position in Africa

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Tuesday started his week-long trip to Africa, and on his itinerary, he expects to visit five African countries, including Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Chad.

The five countries which President Trump's foreign minister will visit are all linked to the fight against international terrorism.

Senior State Department official told journalists in a teleconference earlier on Tuesday that Tillerson would touch down in Ethiopia, then travel to Djibouti and Kenya before crossing over to West Africa to visit Chad and then Nigeria.

All three East African countries are involved in the fight against al-Shabaab in Somalia, while Djibouti also hosts America's only permanent military base in Africa, Camp Lemonnier.

As the official pointed out, Djibouti is also the refueling point for all U.S naval ships in the region, including those of its counterterrorism and counterpiracy task forces. It also hosts French, Japanese, Italian and Chinese military bases.

In West Africa both Nigeria and Chad are fighting the Islamist extreme group Boko Haram while Chad is also fighting other violent extremists like al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

This is a trip which they said was developed during the United Nations General Assembly when President Trump hosted nine African leaders at a luncheon.

And the decision for the five countries, the U.S official explained that three of the countries that Tillerson is visiting house three of the four largest American embassies in Africa.

"So they are cornerstone, pillar countries, as Ethiopia, Kenya, and Nigeria. The other issue, too, is we're looking at how these countries can play a really predominant role in growth, because they all have about 8-9% economic growth rates," the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Ambassador, Don Yamamoto said.

Beyond this, Yamamoto, signaled what the biggest highlight of Tillerson's visit is going to be about showing the U.S position in Africa and define a clear U.S-Africa strategy with President Trump's administration.

He also stated that the U.S was looking at collaboratively working to 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.

The Secretary of State is expected to meet Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Chairperson of the AU Commission, as well as other AU commissioners to talk about the fundamental challenges in South Sudan, DR Congo, Somalia, support for security, but more important looking at economic growth opportunities, according to the official.

Drawing examples of the existing political instability and other security concerns, Yamamoto said that the U.S Secretary's visit would serve to show how the US wants to address, support and resolve the tensions.

"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," he said.

Currently, the official revealed that the investment in Africa from the United States is about $57 billion in direct investment.

Tillerson's visit to Ethiopia incidentally coincides with that of his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov.

Yamamoto, however, brushed off any notions that this meant the two ministers would be meeting.

In Kenya, the US wants to use the country as a regional hub to contribute to Africa's economic development.

Previous conversations held between the U.S and the AU Chairperson President Paul Kagame, Yamamoto disclosed that they also touched on how to jointly work to restore peace in the DR Congo.


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