Former United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, travelled to Africa last week, in what would be his first and last visit to the continent since President Donald Trump entered office.
In a letter to all African leaders, Trump reportedly described the purpose of the visit as reaffirming “the partnerships and values we share with the African Union, member states and citizens across the continent.
Tillerson was expected to visit five out of Africa’s 54 countries: Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria. He ended up cutting the journey short.
Regarded as an unpredictable face of Trumps' foreign policy, Tillerson had a mind of his own and a tone that many considered to be at variance with that of boss.
Here is why Rex Tillerson visit to Africa was doomed from the start.
#1. Wrong candidate for job
Tillerson had no credibility and it was hard to see how he could sell Trump's agenda to Africa.
He had been publicly criticised and even mocked by his commander-in-chief with rumors rife that he would be fired.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump confirmed the rumors by firing Tilerson and tweeted about it without even caring to first discuss it with him.
"I didn't discuss it very much with him," Trump said. "I made that decision by myself."
#2. No African policy
Unlike his predecessors, Trump does not seem to have an African policy in place and it was therefore hard to see how African countries could benefit from the visit.
The US hasn’t shown much of an appetite for diplomatic engagement with Africa since Trump became president with no Assistant Secretary for Africa named and important locations, including South Africa, lack ambassadors.
As a result, African countries have taken cue and turned to China for trade and partnerships.
#3. Bad timing
Tillerson’s visit came weeks after Trump referred to Haiti and African nations as "shithole countries" during a meeting with a bipartisan group of senators at the White House.
The remark drew outrage around the world and prompted several African governments to demand explanations from their US.
Trump is yet to issue a public apology over the remark and unlikely to do so at least in the near future.
It is not like African countries can demand an apology or sever links with US, save for Botswana, majority of African countries are too poor and can't do without US funds but these countries cannot also ignore the negative attitudes of US among their increasingly informed population that coupled with China's cheap loans (in the short term) gives them a little voice to stand up to uncle Sam.
#4. Tillerson’s visit was too limited to make an impact
Tillerson’s trip covered only a fraction of Africa .
Geographically the visit was restricted to the so-called “arc of instability” and US Secretary would visit just five of Africa’s 54 countries and so there won’t much of a big cake to slice and share.
From the choice of the countries counter terrorism was evidently America’s main Africa concern.
If Trump administration was interested in doing business with Africa it would have expanded the visit to cover other countries and issues of trade, public health, and good governance would have been on the table.