U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a news conference at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  Picture: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via AP
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a news conference at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Picture: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via AP

Why Mike Pompeo did not even stop to say hello to SA

By Victor Kgomoeswana Time of article published Feb 23, 2020

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Mike Pompeo, the world’s most powerful secretary of state, just zipped through Africa. He did not stop to say “hello” to South Africa. He winked a warning at us from Ethiopia, though.

“South Africa is debating an amendment to permit the expropriation of private property without compensation,” he told a UN Economic Commission session. Pompeo said he was cool with a country that respected property rights, made regulations to encourage investment, promoted the participation of women and protected the rights of its people.

Not quite the reasons why he picked Ethiopia, Senegal and Angola before heading out to Saudi Arabia; but who would take South Africa seriously?

President Cyril Ramaphosa waited more than 90 minutes to deliver his State of the Nation Address. The subsequent debate by the honourable members degenerated into a slinging match over who beats up or used to beat up his wife. What trivialisation of a life-threatening matter! Our politicians tap-dance around progressive policies, speaking in future imperfect tense, as if anyone ever built a reputation on what they are going to do.

Our state-owned enterprises, if not recovering from malfunction, are facing ruin. Ministers and senior politicians speak at cross-purposes on critical issues. The private sector refuses to open the economy.

Corruption and unemployment are rocketing, as is crime; while key witnesses are allegedly being denied protection. Bottom line: our economy is trundling at a -1% growth rate; racialised income inequality threatens socio-political stability in Africa’s leading economy.

Pompeo is America’s diplomat-in-chief. The US is playing catch-up with the UK, the EU and the BRICS countries. Boris Johnson has cosied up to Africa post-Brexit with his UK-Africa Summit. Angela Merkel has been to Africa this year to tighten relations with allies. Africa’s industrialisation is favouring China, Russia and India; something the US and fellow heavyweights loathe.

Diplomacy is about building international relations with countries that matter in the interest of your economy. Pompeo wants markets for American companies, friends in the right geographic corridors and nodes for the safety of Americans. Senegal, Ethiopia and Angola are just what US corporations like Boeing, which sells several jets to Ethiopian Airlines, and General Electric, which provide solutions to the oil industry, crave. Senegal is a strategic security outpost for the US in West Africa, where French President Emmanuel Macron is deepening his economic diplomatic grip. Ethiopia is a critical ingredient of stability in the Horn of Africa and East Africa.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has earned the respect of countries like Somalia and Eritrea since taking over in April 2018.

One of the biggest threats to the region is Ethiopia’s stand-off over the $5 billion (R76bn) Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam with Sudan and ally of the US, Egypt. Angola is unravelling multibillion investment deals with the fingerprints of the Dos Santos family; opening the lane for US investment to slow down the influence of China.

South Africa is neither a basket case nor a lost cause; but our junior African peers are more decisive than us. Let us prepare to be called ex-leader of Africa soon.

* Kgomoeswana is author of Africa is Open for Business, media commentator and public speaker on African business affairs.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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