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confidentially speaking

The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 20th February 2020

Washington calling Africa

Blue Lines

If African leaders were confused by the US government's attitude towards their countries and continent, they were surely left none the wiser by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who visited Senegal, Ethiopia and Angola on a whistle-stop tour of the continent this week, his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa since taking office two years ago. 

Critics say that the Trump administration lacks any coherent strategy or interest in its African relations. A trade deal was offered to Kenya early this month, but there is little detail on what the new Prosper Africa trade strategy will look like. Investment is stagnating, even if the new International Development Finance Corporation is intended to be a rival to Chinese investment. 

Pompeo offered little on those fronts. Instead, in Ethiopia, he borrowed a leaf from the EU's playbook, taking a veiled swipe at China, warning that 'countries should be wary of authoritarian regimes and their empty promises' that 'breed corruption, dependency and instability'. 

He also offered mixed messages on security and the US military's role in anti-jihad missions.  'We have an obligation to get security right here, it's what will permit economic growth and we're determined to do that,' said Pompeo in Senegal.

Yet he also indicated the Trump administration wished to withdraw its troops from the Sahel. When Washington has little to offer beyond sanctions and travel bans, wonder critics, what was the point of Pompeo's trip?