Africa should avoid forfeiting sovereignty to China over loans: Tillerson

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Thursday that African countries should be careful not to forfeit their sovereignty when they accept loans from China, the continent’s biggest trading partner.

Tillerson is using his first diplomatic trip to the continent to bolster security alliances on a continent increasingly turning to Beijing for aid and trade.

He may also seek to smooth relations after U.S. President Trump reportedly dismissed some African nations as “shithole countries” in January. Trump later denied making the comment.

“We are not in any way attempting to keep Chinese dollars from Africa,” Tillerson told a news conference in the Ethiopian capital. “It is important that African countries carefully consider the terms of those agreements and not forfeit their sovereignty.”

The United States is the leading aid donor to Africa but China surpassed it as a trade partner in 2009. Beijing has pumped billions into infrastructure projects, though critics say the use of Chinese firms and labour undermines their value.

Tillerson said Chinese investments “do not bring significant job creation locally” and criticised how Beijing structures loans to African government.

If a government accepts a Chinese loan and “gets into trouble”, he said, it can “lose control of its own infrastructure or

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