On Tour, Pompeo Courts Africa, to Counter China

On Tour, Pompeo Courts Africa, to Counter China

In light of this, “U.S. government officials just don’t seem to understand that talking trash about the Chinese in Africa, regardless of its merit, just does not help their cause,” said Eric Olander, co-founder of a research initiative, The China Africa Project.

In addition, Mr. Pompeo’s suggestion that Chinese companies operating in Angola do not hire locals was not accurate, Mr. Olander said, noting that locals got a majority of the jobs on Chinese projects.

Beijing has been accused of offering cheap, no-strings-attached loans to African governments that are in dire need of financing to boost their economies — with the sting of default coming when those nations can’t repay those debts. China critics and Western officials, including Mr. Pompeo himself, have said these lending programs amount to a “debt trap,” pose a risk to the sovereignty of African states, and could push debt limits to unsustainable levels. Chinese officials have fervently denied these claims, and cast their engagement with Africa as a win-win.

In Angola, which is in the midst of a massive corruption scandal involving the former president’s daughter, Mr. Pompeo railed against the “destructive” nature of corruption and its impact on ordinary people. Yet analysts say that this message may ring hollow among Africans well aware that President Trump just underwent an impeachment trial and has been accused of steering U.S. government business to his own hotels and resorts.

But it may be that Mr. Pompeo’s trip will convince some African leaders that the Trump administration is now ready to focus on Africa. His visit, said Addisu Lashitew, a research fellow with the Brookings Institution, a research organization in Washington, “testifies to a modicum of interest in the continent” and signals a step toward resetting the relationship with Africa in anticipation of President Trump’s re-election.

This is especially true in the choice to visit Ethiopia, a strategic American ally that is undergoing sweeping changes under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. A fast-growing economy, Addis Ababa plays a critical security role in the Horn of Africa, is home to the African Union, is liberalizing its economy and privatizing key sectors like telecom. The country has extensive relations with China, but has engaged the United States in trying to resolve a dispute with Egypt over a dam that Ethiopia has built on the Nile.

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