US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s five-day trip to sub-Saharan Africa was a subtle campaign to woo the continent "away from China" in Washington’s latest move against Beijing’s growing world influence.
Pompeo toured Senegal, Angola and Ethiopia. But it was in the latter’s capital, Addis Ababa, that he delivered his message.
Addressing a gathering of business leaders at the head offices of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, Pompeo said Washington was keen on helping entrepreneurs turn around African economies, but warned that other global partners may not have that ambition — a clear reference to China, which has invested heavily in Ethiopia.
“Look, not every nation doing business in Africa from outside the continent adopts the American model of partnership. Countries should be wary of authoritarian regimes with empty promises,” he said.
China is now Africa’s biggest bilateral investor, pumping some $300 billion into the continent by 2018. But critics like Washington have argued that the money doesn’t benefit local people.
“They breed corruption, dependency, they don’t hire the local people, they don’t train, they don’t lead them. They run the risk that the prosperity and sovereignty and progress that Africa so needs and desperately wants won’t happen,” he argued without naming Beijing, but taking up past references that targeted the Chinese influence in Africa.
While Pompeo, who has been tasked with marketing President Trump’s bid to outdo China in Africa, was referring to Washington’s version of co-operation as business, he still ventured into the usual US policies on good governance and democracy, saying they could determine whether American firms will venture into countries or not.
“If you will all focus on the basics — if you will get it right, if you will get transparency right, good governance right — American businesses will come. We have been in Africa for an awfully long time. More capital will flow,” he told the audience.
“The Trump administration wants these trade ties to continue and to expand. We are committed to it. If there is one thing you should know about our president, my boss, you should know that he loves deals. He wants more to happen. He wants more to happen between the United States and nations all across Africa.”
He also visited Senegal and Angola, pushing for business, but staying on course for other governance-related issues.
In Senegal, he announced a deal between US engineering firm Bechtel and local authorities to build a road from Dakar to St Louis, “transforming infrastructure and creating opportunities.”
Dakar is significant for US military interests in west Africa and Pompeo described Senegal as “a vibrant democracy rich in culture and history.”
In Angola, US oil firm Chevron and others would be exploring offshore natural gas fields, bringing jobs and economic growth right along with them. US companies would reportedly be putting some $2 billion investment in Angola, helping the country to diversify its economy. And in Ethiopia, beverage maker Coca-Cola would be expanding a new $300 million investment. companies like FedEx and Citibank were also interested, Pompeo’s dispatch indicated.
Yet all these monies could snap up if local leaders encouraged graft, he warned. In Angola, he stressed on the narrative of corruption in the southern African nation and globally.
“Our efforts to help Angola hold some individuals accountable who engaged in corrupt activities here. The answer is yes. We’re committed; we do this all across the world”, he told journalists.
“Corruption is the enemy of a nation’s growth and progress. Here in Angola, damage from corruption is pretty clear. I spoke with the President today. I was unabashed in talking about the work that he has done, and the work that needs to continue to be done”, Mr Pompeo added.
Pompeo’s trip saw him meet Presidents Macky Sall of Senegal and Ethiopian counterpart Sahle-Work Zewde and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, as well as foreign Ministers of the three countries and African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat.