Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Tall Task Secretary Tillerson Makes Needed Visit to Africa

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Tall Task Secretary Tillerson Makes Needed Visit to Africa

Article excerpt

Rex Tillerson's first trip to Africa as secretary of state is underway, with a number of subjects to pursue. His stops include Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Chad and Nigeria.

One of Mr. Tillerson's tasks will be to gauge the lay of the land and soothe ruffled feathers. A number of leaders on the continent expressed hurt and anger after President Donald Trump's derogatory reference to African nations in January negotiations with U.S. lawmakers overimmigration.A second chore will be to tell leaders that Washington does really care about Africa, in spite of the Trump administration not having named an assistant secretary of state for African affairs, the key position in the State Department.

In matters of specific policy, Mr. Tillerson will be seeking to convince African nations not to bite hook, line and sinker on China's many efforts to sign them onto a tight trade and investment economic relationship. America has never been terribly effective in displacing European colonial nations - Belgium, France, Germany, Portugal and Britain - in taking advantage of African trade and investment opportunities. That is partly due to just those colonial ties. It is also partly due to American companies' lack of aggressiveness and gumption in pursuing trade and investment in Africa.

Mr. Tillerson is no stranger to Africa, having made many visits in his former role running ExxonMobil. He is likely to play on those previous relationships with oil-export-dependent African nations that include Angola, Chad, Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria.

He will have specific missions in each country, depending on issues and U.S. relations with each state. In Ethiopia, the first stop on Wednesday, he addressed representatives of the continent-wide African Union, based in the capital Addis Ababa, warning them particularly about the Chinese. …

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