Washington (CNN)Secretary of State Rex Tillerson set out this week for his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa, where he is holding meetings with influential leaders across the continent.
Yet even as the US seeks to shore up (and, in some sense, repair) its relationships with African governments, Tillerson is keenly aware of another, bigger presence looming in the background: China.
Since the early 2000s, China has been investing heavily across Africa through dramatically increased trade, foreign direct investments and loans from the China Export-Import Bank. The phenomenon has, in many respects, been a boon for African economies. But it has also put the US government on edge, as Tillerson expressed in a speech earlier this week at George Mason University, in Washington's Virginia suburbs.
"Chinese investment does have the potential to address Africa's infrastructure gap, but its approach has led to mounting debt and few if any jobs in most countries," said Tillerson. "When coupled with political and fiscal pressure, this endangers Africa's natural resources and its long-term economic and political stability."