US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson began his first visit to the continent since joining the Trump administration by warning African governments that they risked undermining their sovereignty by accepting large loans from China, the Financial Times reports.
Tillerson’s intervention is intended to help the US regain the ascendancy on a continent where China is doing most of the running. Africa is home to five of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies, but where many also struggle to secure financing. Some African governments have tended to bristle at Washington’s approach, according to the FT.
During a speech at the headquarters of the African Union in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, Tillerson insisted that the US was “not attempting to keep Chinese investment dollars out of Africa,” but that governments should be aware that they could lose control of infrastructure and resources if they are unable to repay their debts to China.
“Oftentimes, the financing models are structured in a way that the country, when it gets into trouble financially, loses control of its own infrastructure or its own resources through default,” said the Secretary of State. African countries should “not forfeit any elements of your sovereignty as you enter into such arrangements with China”, he warned.