US tells African countries to weigh Chinese loans carefully

Thursday March 8 2018

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during a press conference on March 08, 2018, at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa. AFP PHOTO | SIMON MAINA 

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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Thursday that African countries should weigh Chinese loans carefully, while adding that Washington was not trying to keep Chinese investment away from the continent.

Tillerson, a former Exxon chief executive, is seeking to bolster security alliances on a continent increasingly turning to Beijing for aid and trade.

He may also seek to smooth relations after US President Donald Trump reportedly dismissed some African nations as “shithole countries” in January. Trump later denied making the comment.

“We are not in any way attempting to keep Chinese dollars from Africa,” Tillerson told a news conference in the Ethiopian capital during his first diplomatic trip to the continent.

“(But) it is important that African countries carefully consider the terms of those agreements and not forfeit their sovereignty.”

He arrived in Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous nation, on Wednesday and visited the African Union headquarters on Thursday. The complex was fully funded and built by China and is seen as a symbol of Beijing’s thrust for influence and access to the continent’s natural resources.

The top US diplomat’s comments followed a speech earlier this week in which he criticised “China’s approach” to Africa which he said encouraged dependency through “opaque contracts” and “predatory loan practices”.