US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has wrapped up a trip to three African states this week, where he noted the importance of deepening trade ties and the struggle against corruption.
Starting his trip in Germany, Pompeo visited Senegal, Angola and Ethiopia, before moving on to Saudi Arabia. The US has recently shown some signs of hoping to reduce its forces in Africa, with US President Donald Trump having talked of moving away from fighting “endless wars”.
The first stop in Africa was in Senegal, with Pompeo describing the country as one of the US’ closest allies on the continent.
“One of the surest signs of our friendship, too, is the fact that our private companies flock here to Senegal,” Pompeo said, noting he had mentioned the offshore finds in conversations with Senegalese President Macky Sall and Senegalese Foreign Minister Amadou Ba. He singled out Kosmos Energy, Halliburton and Baker Hughes as helping develop “these resources so that they benefit the Senegalese people, not foreign actors”.
A number of US deals have been signed recently, with GE committing to upgrade power plants in Senegal, while Weldy Lamont signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Senelec on the electrical grid.
Commenting on security forces, Pompeo said the US Department of Defence is looking at the situation to make sure the “force levels [are] right … we have an obligation to get security right here in the region. It’s what will permit economic growth, and we’re determined to do that.”
Angola followed for Pompeo, where the secretary of state said corruption had “stunted this nation’s vast potential for far too long”. The US, he said, would bring its resources to bear to try and ensure transparency in financial transactions around the world, in addition to holding individuals accountable for actions in Angola.
He praised progress from Angolan President Joao Lourenco on tackling the problems, with Pompeo going to say he was “encouraged by his efforts to privatize state-owned enterprises”.
The US official also noted plans for the $2 billion New Gas Consortium, which aims to find more resources for the Angola LNG plant.
During questions, Pompeo said the US came to African opportunities to benefit the locals and without a political objective. “Not every nation that comes here to invest does that,” in response to a question on Chinese involvement in the continent. In comments on the notes between Pompeo and Lourenco, State said the two had discussed China’s role in the continent.
Ethiopia marked the last step of Pompeo’s African journey. The official noted the launch of the Development Finance Corp., which is just over a month old, which is intended to drive private sector investment with a focus on priority areas, which include energy and infrastructure.
The US has made strides in helping the fight against corruption, but not all efforts are easily reconciled. Pompeo notably did not visit Nigeria this week. At the beginning of February, the US Department of Justice announced it had reached a deal with Nigeria to return $308 million from New Jersey.
The DoJ statement noted the cash was linked to the regime of Sani Abacha, who died in 1998, and Abubakar Atiku Bagudu.
Bloomberg has reported that the Nigerian government cannot provide assistance to the US in this case because of a 2003 deal it reached with Bagudu. As a result of this, around $100mn of the cash from the US could be handed to Bagudu, the news agency reported, a development the US opposes.