Be wary of Chinese loans, U.S warns Nigeria, others

Rex Tillerson [Photo: The New Yorker]

The United States Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, on Thursday told African countries to be wary of the Chinese government and its loan facilities.

Mr. Tillerson warned that African countries should weigh Chinese loans carefully, adding that Washington was not trying to keep Chinese investment away from the continent.

The U.S. Secretary has been taking a dig at China and its investment in Africa in the past few days, although he had been roundly condemned by Russian foreign minister Sergei lavrov, who is also visiting Zimbabwe on Thursday.

On Tuesday, he said China “encouraged dependency, utilised corrupt deals and endangered Africa’s natural resources.”

Mr. Tillerson, a former Exxon Chief Executive, is seeking to bolster economic and security alliances on a continent increasingly turning to China for aid and trade.

The U.S. diplomat is also believed to be seeking smooth relations with African countries after President Donald Trump reportedly dismissed some African nations as “Shithole countries” in January, a comment he later denied.

The trip is his first to Africa, which has since turned to China in trade and investment agreements.

The Chinese government has pumped billions into infrastructure projects across the continent, although critics say there is often little gains for local economies because Chinese firms and nationals build the roads and rails.

On Thursday, the U.S diplomat told a news conference in the Ethiopian capital that African leaders need to carefully consider their agreements with China.

“We are not in any way attempting to keep Chinese ‘dollars’ from Africa,” he said, “(but) it is important that African countries carefully consider the terms of those agreements and not forfeit their sovereignty.”

Mr. Tillerson said that Chinese investments “do not bring significant job creation locally” and criticised how the country structures loans to African governments, saying if a government accepts a Chinese loan and “gets into trouble”, it can “lose control of its own infrastructure or its own resources through default.”

Mr. Tillerson arrived Ethiopia on Wednesday and visited the African Union headquarters, built by China, on Thursday.

He was due to meet with Ethiopian officials on Thursday afternoon before flying to tiny Djibouti, host to sprawling military bases owned by the U.S, China, Japan, France, and Italy.

He is also billed to visit Nigeria.

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