U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has departed for Africa on a weeklong four-country official visit to Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti.
Tillerson, during the visit, would engage with President Muhammadu Buhari and other top government functionaries, and the leaders of the three other countries.
The trip, his first official visit to Africa, as Secretary of State, would take him first to Ethiopia and then to Djibouti from where he would go to Kenya, and then to Chad, before coming to Nigeria.
Speaking at George Mason University, Virginia before his departure, he expressed optimism that there was ample opportunity in Africa – for economic growth, for greater prosperity, and for responding to global challenges through mutually respectful partnerships.
According to him, he looks forward to returning and building on a strong foundation of U.S.-Africa relations, including visiting Chad, a country that has never before welcomed a visit by the Secretary of State.
Speaking on ‘U.S.-Africa Relations: A New Framework’, he said over the past century, as African nations emerged from their colonial past, there had been a dramatic increase in America’s engagement with Africa.
“Forty years ago this month, President Jimmy Carter visited Liberia and Nigeria, where he announced that ‘our nation has now turned in an unprecedented way toward Africa’.
“Today that turning continues. Our country’s security and economic prosperity are linked with Africa’s like never before,” he said, adding the Africa-U.S. engagement will only intensify in the coming decades for several reasons.
He noted that by the year 2030, Africa would represent about one quarter of the world’s workforce and by the year 2050, the population of the continent is expected to double to more than 2.5 billion people – with 70 per cent of them under the age of 30.
He added that Africa was experiencing significant economic growth, noting the World Bank estimates that six of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world this year will be African.
“For context, by the year 2050, Nigeria will have a population larger than the United States and an economy larger than Australia’s.
“To understand where the world is going, one must understand that Africa is a significant part of the future.
“African countries will factor more and more into numerous global security and development challenges, as well as expansive opportunities for economic growth and influence,” he said.
According to him, while Africa contains a wealth of diversity – among its peoples, its cultures, and its governments – there are common challenges and opportunities.
“Africa’s vitality is reflected in its youth, but a growing population of young people means a requirement for more jobs.
“As more Africans move out of poverty, nations will require more infrastructure and development.
“The growing population of young people, if left without jobs and a hope for the future, will create new ways for terrorists to exploit the next generation, subverting stability and derailing democratic governments.
“Leaders will be challenged to innovate and to manage the limited financial resources they have.
“As we look ahead, this administration seeks to deepen our partnership with Africa, with an aim of making African countries more resilient and more self-sufficient.
“That serves our partners, and it serves the United States as well by creating a stable future for all of our children and our grandchildren,” Tillerson stressed.