Gambia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ousainou Darboe joined other African ministers in Washington, where U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson led talks on trade, security, and good governance.
The Trump Administration is continuing the Obama policy of U.S. focusing on trade and investment in Africa rather than foreign aid, in hopes that the continent can grow partner with U.S. businesses and grow its economy.
“By 2050, the population of the continent is projected to double to more than 2.5 billion people, with 70 percent of that population being under the age of 30,” Tillerson said. “All of these young people will have expectations for entering the workforce.”
Since becoming Secretary of State, Tillerson had not visited Africa. President Trump has not visited either. Trump during his campaign barely mentioned Africa and it has not been a matter of concern to his administration until the killing of U.S. troops in Niger sparked contention.
However, Tillerson said the U.S. will join forces with African nations, especially those in the Sahel to defeat jihadist groups and uproot the causes of violent extremism.
Extremist fighters have mounted attacks in Mali, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Libya, where Al-Qaeda and the locally grown group, Boko Haram has deposited havoc.
But African governments cannot extinguish extremism and its root causes like poverty with economic growth and lasting prosperity, which can only thrive through good governance.
Good governance has been undermined in the continent as some leaders scrap term limits, entrenched autocratic rule and have their governments failing to respect human rights and upholding the law.
Tillerson said peaceful transition of power is important, but democracy involves more than just holding fair elections.
“Democracy requires the inclusive, peaceful participation of a nation’s citizens in the political process,” he said.
“That includes freedoms of expression and association, an independent press, a robust and engaged civil society, a government that is transparent and accountable to all of its citizens, and a fair and impartial judiciary.”
Most of Africa is moving towards the wave of democracy. Autocratic rulers are being defeated in the polls and regional powerhouses are supporting the trend.
The Gambia is the latest country to oust a dictator, who is now in exile. After a rocky transition, the country’s economy is stabilized, a new constitution is in the works and freedom is reigning.
Tillerson’s meeting with the African foreign ministers comes at a time when power has been seized from Zimbabwe’s strongman Robert Mugabe, whose party is meeting Sunday to have him step aside.
Zimbabwe’s military intervened after Mugabe purged some war veterans. The world is hoping it ends up like Gambia, where regional military intervention was intertwined with diplomacy to get a peaceful resolution to the crisis.