Since the administration came into office at least one of the top three USA officials-the president, the vice president, and the secretary of state-has visited every global region except Africa. Trump allegedly made the comment about African nations and Haiti during a meeting on US immigration legislation in January.
"We are not in any way attempting to keep Chinese investment dollars out of Africa".
According to him, the US message is for countries to consider carefully what the terms of those agreements are, and not forfeit any elements of their sovereignty as they enter into such arrangements with China.
Tillerson appreciated the efforts and role the AU plays in economic regional integration of Africa and ensuring peace and stability on the continent, as well as strengthening the African Center for Disease control, on which he said U.S.is keen to forge closer collaboration. He did not give examples.
Tillerson also warned on Thursday of Chinese investment, but acknowledged that it is needed in some cases to build African infrastructure. The official said Africa's debts had accumulated over a long period and that Chinese loans were mainly for infrastructure and were therefore productive, helping countries achieve industrialisation and modernisation. Chinese influence does not however take away the historical ties between Washington and African capitals.
The slur was greeted with a mix of horror and outrage on a continent where many dont know what to think about the USA president, or what he thinks of them.
On Thursday, he met with the Chairperson of the African union commission Moussa Faki Mahamat in Addis Ababa, the first stop of his tour of the continent.
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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) smiles as he walks with Ethiopian Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu (R) upon his arrival at the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 7, 2018.
Tillerson, on a five-country swing across Africa, has emphasized his trip is aimed at hearing African leaders' concerns. Details of their discussions were not released.
Though the deliverables of this trip, as well as the launch of any new initiatives, remain unclear, the set of countries that Tillerson is visiting indicates that security is indeed the primary focus.
By the year 2030, Africa will 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.
Meantime, the Trump administration has again reversed course on whether to let Americans import the body parts of African elephants shot for recreation. AFRICOM had already begun engaging China, particularly in Djibouti, where the two countries had military bases just a few kilometres apart.
In West Africa, Tillerson will visit Chad and Nigeria, both major oil-producers struggling to contain the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency.