AFTER the controversy involving US President Donald Trump describing Africa in vulgar terms, he has given the go-ahead for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to make an ‘extended visit’ to Africa in March.
According to the Associated Press, Trump sent a letter to African leaders during their recent summit in Addis Ababa informing them about the trip.
Having taken so long to turn his focus on Africa, amid criticism from some quarters, it would seem that Trump is now ready to deal with the continent. ‘I want to underscore that the United States deeply respects the people of Africa, and my commitment to strong and respectful relationships with African states as sovereign nations is firm,’ the Trump letter to the African Union said.
‘The United States profoundly respects the partnerships and values we share with the African Union, member states, and citizens across the continent,’ he wrote. Indeed, in the global fight against terrorism, Africa is increasingly being drawn into the war. Trump noted that US troops were ‘fighting side by side’ against extremism in Africa, and that Washington was working to increase ‘free, fair and reciprocal trade’ with African countries.
One area that African countries and the US are looking to work closely is in the provision of electricity to a continent where over 600 million people do not have access to power. Trump has undone former President Barack Obama’s Power Africa project that had rejected the use of fossil fuels such as coal to provide electricity.
Late last year, US Energy Secretary Rick Perry was in Cape Town for a meeting of African oil and energy ministers. He used the opportunity to push the idea of Trump’s clean coal alliance, which would see technology being used to reduce the effect of emissions from coal production.
Earlier last year, Trump had urged the international multilateral banks to fund coal projects in developing countries by helping them to access the fossil fuel efficiently and cleanly. Perry noted the problems caused by the lack of electricity in Africa. ‘Development starts when you have a power supply,’ he said. ‘That’s my message to Africa. America is truly your friend and your partner. And we’re here to help Africa use fossil fuels and use them cleanly with the world’s newest and best technology.’
Perry said the US was willing to help countries develop their energy systems ‘from all sources,’ noting the arguments by climate change activists who back renewable energy in favour of fossil fuels. ‘You can have both. We need to open debate on these issues, and countries in Africa must be free to choose which way they want to go,’ Perry said.
‘My showing up here is about US support for Africa. We will invest in African energy projects, but it’s also time to let technology be your friend. We will help this continent make more power, and we will do it cleanly.’
Supporters of coal for power are urging countries such as the US to spend more money on carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal production.
Apart from security issues, it is expected that Secretary of State Tillerson will also touch on development that will hinge on increasing access to electricity in Africa to aid its economic growth and poverty reduction programmes.