Rex Tillerson speaking at a lectern (State Dept.)
(State Dept.)

The United States stands with African countries “to defeat the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said November 17.

The secretary also urged greater support from African partners regarding North Korea. “Everyone — including each country represented here today — must play a part” in a peaceful pressure campaign to convince North Korea to abandon its current path, he said to a gathering of foreign ministers from 38 African countries at the State Department.

Tillerson thanked partners for their work to condemn North Korea’s recent nuclear provocations and urged additional measures, including fully implementing U.N. sanctions, downgrading diplomatic relationships and cutting economic ties. “The DPRK presents a threat to all of our nations,” he said.

The November 17 Ministerial on Trade, Security and Governance in Africa follows up on President Trump’s September conversation with African leaders at the United Nations General Assembly.

Promoting trade

Tillerson called U.S. trade and investment with Africa “stronger than it’s ever been” and said the administration sees more opportunity in the coming years.

U.S. exports from the U.S. to sub-Saharan Africa grew from $17 billion in 2010 to more than $25 billion in 2014. Five of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies are in Africa.

“This administration seeks to refocus our economic relationship squarely on trade and investment — to encourage policies that increase openness and competition within Africa,” the secretary said. “A more economically vibrant and competitive Africa will grow the middle class, increase standards of living and make the entire continent more prosperous.”

Leaders sitting at tables for a conference (State Dept.)
Secretary Tillerson participates in the Ministerial on Trade, Security and Governance in Africa at the U.S. Department of State. (State Dept.)

Boosting governance

Good governance paves the way for economic growth and lasting peace.

A recent African Union study found that corruption cost the continent roughly $150 billion per year. “This is money that should be used to create jobs, build schools and hospitals, improve security and provide social services,” Tillerson said. “Authorities who ignore the rule of law and change their constitutions for personal gain are all obstacles for the development of prosperous, free societies.”

Tillerson acknowledged that all African leaders and the U.S. were closely monitoring the situation in Zimbabwe. “We all should work together for a quick return to civilian rule in that country in accordance with their constitution,” he said. He welcomed discussion on concrete ways African Union leaders can help the people of Zimbabwe through this transition. “Ultimately,” he said, “the people of Zimbabwe must choose their government.”

Confronting terrorism

The secretary said it is imperative that the U.S. and African countries work together to address the root causes of violent extremism. “To create sustainable peace, we must also combat marginalization, strengthen accountability and create more economic opportunity,” he said.