US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced corruption and touted American business during the second leg of an African tour in Angola, where government is seeking to claw back billions looted from state coffers.
Pompeo aims to promote US investment as an alternative to Chinese loans while assuaging concerns over a planned US military withdrawal and the expansion of visa restrictions targeting four African countries.
In Luanda, Pompeo met with President Joao Lourenco, who took office in 2017 promising wide-ranging economic reforms and a crackdown on endemic graft that marked his predecessor Jose Eduardo dos Santos’ four-decade rule.
“In Angola, damage from corruption is pretty clear,” he told a group of businessmen. “The reform agenda the president put in place has to stick.”
Portugal’s public prosecutor ordered seizure of bank accounts belonging to Isabel dos Santos, the former president’s billionaire daughter, a suspect in an Angolan fraud investigation.
Reputedly the richest woman in Africa, she repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Angola, sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest economy and its second-largest oil producer is ranked as one of the world’s most corrupt nations, in 165th place on a list of 180 countries, according to anti-corruption group Transparency International.
US oil majors Exxon Mobil and Chevron hold significant stakes in Angolan oil fields.
Last year, Chevron signed into a consortium to develop Angola’s natural gas assets alongside Italy’s Eni, France’s Total, BP and Angolan state oil company Sonangol.
“We’ve got a group of energy companies that have put more than $2 billion in a natural gas project. That will rebound to the benefit of the American businesses for sure, but to the Angolan people as well,” Pompeo said.
Despite US investments, the bulk of Angola’s oil production is destined for China, which holds the majority of Angolan foreign debt.
The Trump administration accuses China of predatory lending in Africa, where Beijing loaned governments billions for infrastructure projects in exchange for access to natural resources. China rejects the criticism.
With a revamped International Development Finance Corporation and a new Prosper Africa trade and investment strategy, the administration is seeking to combat Chinese influence on the continent.
The push comes as some governments question President Donald Trump’s commitment to Africa.
The White House last month tightened visa restrictions on nationals from Sudan, Tanzania, Eritrea and Nigeria.
West African governments are worried about a proposed US troop withdrawal from the region as Islamist groups with links to Islamic State and al Qaeda gain ground.
During the first leg of his African trip in Senegal, Pompeo sought to put some fears to rest.
“We have an obligation to get security right here, in the region. It’s what will permit economic growth and we’re determined to do that,” he told reporters.