Africa Visit: Tillerson To Focus On Population, Institutions, Human Rights



In his first ever tour to Africa since President Trump assumed office early past year, Tillerson will visit Kenya and four other countries including Ethiopia, Nigeria, Chad and Djibouti. 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.

Though he has yet to visit as diplomat, Tillerson is not a stranger to Africa, which he visited frequently in search of deals in his previous job as CEO of Exxon Mobil.

In a conference call with reporters on Monday, previewing Tillerson's trip, Dona Yamamoto, acting assistant secretary of state for African affairs, stressed the need for investment in girls' education and entrepreneurial and youth development programs.

In recent years, countries like Ethiopia and Djibouti have benefited from massive economic expansion, while Nigeria, Chad and other states along the Sahel region have faced a rising threat of terrorism.

The U.S. noted recent United Nations reports about some of the extremist operations in the G-5 countries and the Trans-Sahel.

Tillerson will also visit Kenya, where the political system is in turmoil over disputes related to President Uhuru Kenyatta's re-election. Ethiopia's strong-man prime minister abruptly resigned in February, resulting in a care-taker government that is set to elect a new prime minister soon.

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"And also, we're looking hopefully at South Africa with the election of Cyril Ramaphosa from Jacob Zuma and seeing how that's going to transition". It has the continent's largest economy and is a functioning "non-racial" democracy.

The secretary's trip is unlikely to advance the United States relationship with sub-Saharan Africa in any meaningful way.

US engagement, limited though it is, appears to be more military than diplomatic, reflecting the Trump administrations security preoccupations. Democracy, human rights and development take a back seat under the Trump administration, with sharp cuts in foreign aid. There is still no assistant secretary of state for Africa, no US ambassador to South Africa, and numerous other Africa-related positions remain unfilled.

Critics argue that the Trump administration's neglect of Africa and narrow focus leaves it increasingly irrelevant to African leaders.

Tillerson, during the visit, will meet President Muhammadu Buhari and other top government officials, and the leaders of the three other countries. "If Trump and Tillerson were seriously interested in issues of trade, public health, and good governance, he would have at least included democratic South Africa on his agenda", Stremlau said.

John Stremlau, an analyst on Africa and a visiting professor at the University of the Witwatersrand, argues that America's decline in influence in Africa has accelerated under Trump. He points out that since the 1990s Congress has consistently supported closer economic and political partnerships with Africa, reflecting the big American business, philanthropy, and civil society constituency for Africa.

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