Secretary Tillerson to Begin Five Nation Tour of Africa

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is received by Ethiopian Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu upon his arrival at the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa Ethiopia on Wednesday

During his meetings Tillerson will encourage building and strengthening democratic institutions based on protection of human rights, civil rights as well as promoting tolerance. Trump later denied making the comment.

Speaking at George Mason University, Virginia, before his departure, the Secretary of State expressed optimism that there was ample opportunity in Africa for economic growth, greater prosperity and for responding to global challenges through mutually respectful partnerships. State Department officials said Tillerson wanted to hear from leaders in Africa in what ways they're most eager to collaborate with the United States.

President Donald Trump's description of "shithole countries" in January was greeted with a mix of horror and outrage in Africa, where many don't know what to think about the USA president - or what he thinks of them.

Tillerson then announced an additional $533 million in aid for countries hit by drought and conflict.

Tillerson will also visit Djibouti, a tiny but strategically important ally in the Horn of Africa where the authoritarian leader, Ismail Omar Guelleh, has been in power since 1999, after taking over from his uncle; and Kenya, which is also fighting al-Shabab in Somalia.

Stremlau said instead of diplomatic engagement, America's approach in Africa is increasingly militaristic.

"... The Trump administration has yet to nominate a chief USA diplomat for Africa, while eight embassies, including South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Somalia, remain without ambassadors".

He will spend about a week on the continent visiting countries that play key roles in addressing Africa's security challenges, including Nigeria, Chad and Djibouti, which houses the only permanent US military base in Africa.

Trump has said he wants to cut the budgets for foreign aid and the State Department by a third. But with China edging out Western interests, dealing with dictators and democrats alike, the Trump administration appears to be adopting a more pragmatic approach, homing in on what matters most to Washington: containing the threat of terrorism in East Africa and the Sahel.

"Africa is ready and open for business".

Acting Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Don Yamamoto told journalists on Monday that USA diplomats were becoming concerned about the high levels of Chinese debt some nations were incurring. Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti are also involved in the struggle against al-Shabaab, the terrorist organization centered in Somalia, where the US military also has assumed a limited support role.

Nigeria was one of the countries that benefitted from the debt relief under ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo. But seeing as one of the objectives of the visit is to "spur mutually beneficial trade and investment", the Secretary of State can help us make sense of the USA trade policies towards Africa.

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