U.S. Secretary Pompeo Visits Africa To Talk About China

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli
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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Africa to counter the growing influence of China in the region, making stops in Senegal, Angola, and Ethiopia. Angola President, Joao Lourenco, right, meets with U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo at the Presidential Palace in Luanda, Angola, Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. Image: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via AP

Not a big fan of diplomacy, President Donald Trump hasn’t set foot on African soil during more than three years in the White House, but he’s delegating the job to someone else.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Dakar on Feb. 16 on a visit that is expected to include Senegal, Angola, and Ethiopia. The mission? To counter the growing influence of China in the region. 

Pompeo is expected to have a hard time convincing African countries that the U.S. can match China’s level of commitment in Africa, according to TheAfricaReport.  

China has become the most important trading partner for many African countries. 

Chinese investments and contracts in sub-Saharan Africa amounted to $299 billion from 2005 to 2018, according to the China Investment Global Tracker.

In 2018, Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to invest a further $60 billion into African countries, Quartz reported.

Almost 50 African presidents and heads of state attended the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Summit in Beijing In September 2018, chaired by President Xi. 

That kind of effort and attention has not been matched by the U.S. which recently added four African countries — Nigeria, Tanzania, Eritrea and Sudan — to the Trump administration’s travel ban list

In 2019, the U.S. government cut important health programs to Africa, including annulling $252 million in funding for Ebola containment and prevention.

Trump also threatened cuts to AIDS funding in Africa through the President’s Executive Plan for AIDS Relief fund but Congress rejected the cuts.

The U.S. is looking to reduce its military presence in West Africa which is crucial to the fight against extremism in the region, according to Politico. This is one of the topics that Pompeo discussed with leaders from Senegal.

“We did have a lot of conversation about security issues here, about America’s role in those. We’ve made it clear that the Department of Defense is looking at West Africa to make sure we have our force levels right,” Pompeo said to reporters.

In Angola and Ethiopia, Pompeo is expected to promote U.S. trade as an alternative to China

China has invested heavily in Angola, with an estimated $25 billion in debt to Beijing to be repaid with oil shipments, Quartz reports.

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Pompeo will end his African trip in Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous country — with 108 million people and the headquarters of the African Union. 

Ethiopia is a key U.S. security ally in the Horn of Africa and has undergone dramatic political and economic reforms since Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was elected in 2018.