Tillerson Pledges $533 Million in US Humanitarian Aid to Africa

FAIRFAX, Va. (CN) – Hours before departing on a week-long visit to Africa, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday the U.S. will commit $533 Million in humanitarian aid to address food insecurity, famine and health concerns on the continent.

In his first major speech on U.S.-Africa relations, Tillerson told an audience at George Mason University Tuesday morning that  the United States sees a “bright future” for Africa as its population grows and said the Trump administration is “committed to saving lives in Africa.”

The State Department said that about $184 million would go to help those affected by conflict in South Sudan and $110 million for those in Somalia. Another $110 million was destined for Ethiopia to help amid a drought. The U.S. planned to direct $128 million to help with Nigeria and the Lake Chad region nations.

Tillerson, who departs later Tuesday for Ethiopia, also sought to contrast the U.S. approach to Africa to that of China, which he says “encourages dependency” that undermines sovereignty on the continent.

“Chinese investment has the potential to address Africa’s infrastructure gap, but its approach has led to mounting debt and few if any jobs in most countries,” Tillerson said. “When coupled with political and fiscal pressure, this endangers Africa’s natural resources and its long-term economic and political stability.”

The U.S., in contrast, wants to partner with African countries while promoting rule of law and democratic development, he said.

The United States is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance in Africa, providing roughly $3 billion in aid since the beginning of Fiscal Year 2017, the state department said.

In a conference call with reporters on Monday, previewing Tillerson’s trip, Dona Yamamoto, acting assistant secretary of state for African affairs, stressed the need for investment in girls’ education and entrepreneurial and youth development programs.

Strong trade and reliable banking institutions are the “impetus for that development,” Yamamoto said.

But achieving those goals will require accomplishing another — eradicating the pockets of terrorist who have set up shop on the continent during the past decade.

“Terrorism knows no borders,” Tillerson told his audience in Virginia. “Regional cooperation is instrumental in denying [terrorists] the chance to carry out their plans of attack.”

The secretary noted many African nation are already “stepping up” in this regard, pooling resources and striving to find “African-led solutions to instability.”

He noted that while Africans last year comprised only 20 percent of the peacekeepers assigned to the continent, this year the number exceeds 50 percent.

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