Editor’s Note: March 13, 2018
Rex Tillerson’s rhetoric on Africa is behind the curve
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wrapped up his first official Africa visit on Monday. The trip saw him visit Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Chad and Nigeria.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the whistle stop tour was the overt display of anxiety about China – Africa relations.
This ranged from scaremongering about the perils of China investing in the port of Djibouti to Tillerson warning African countries to “not forfeit their sovereignty” to Beijing through vast borrowing.
Tillerson’s comments are behind the curve, harking back to a largely negative view of China in Africa in developed economies that has moved on considerably in recent years. In places like the EU and Japan, for example, China is increasingly seen as a potential partner on the continent, not a threat.
This is not an endorsement of Beijing – which certainly has shortcomings in Africa – but acceptance that China’s presence is a reality, and here to stay.
His words will have also fallen on deaf ears among many Africans – particularly in the likes of Ethiopia and Djibouti, which have deep, strategic, and mutually beneficial ties with Beijing
It feels almost like Tillerson was given an out-of-date memo on what’s happening in Africa.
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