Updated Mar 8, 2018

Tillerson outlines U.S.–Africa policy in time for visit

Secretary Tillerson with African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki on March 8, 2018. Photo: Jonathan Ernst / AFP / Getty Images

The Trump administration has yet to chart a clear or coherent policy toward Africa, but that may now be changing. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s six-day trip to Africa marks by far the administration's highest-ranking official visit to the continent, following U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley’s well-received tour in October.

The background: Tillerson laid out the beginnings of an Africa policy in a speech at George Mason University on Tuesday. He acknowledged the importance of Africa's partnership to U.S. interests and spoke favorably of policy initiatives undertaken by previous administrations, referring to the historically bipartisan nature of U.S.–Africa relations.

However, his speech prioritized security issues over political, social or economic development. While this theme accords with Trump’s worldview, it does not speak directly to the problems Africa wants to address or the interests of U.S. businesses looking to invest on the continent.

The destinations on the secretary’s trip coincide with U.S. military assistance and engagements. Ethiopia and Kenya are engaged against al-Shabaab, Nigeria and Chad against Boko Haram and Sahelian Islamic extremists, and Djibouti hosts a U.S. military base. While still focusing on security issues, past administrations have also championed health (PEPFAR), development (Power Africa), U.S.-Africa trade (African Growth and Opportunity Act) and human rights (Anti-Apartheid Act, passed over President Reagan’s veto).

The bottom line: The United States has enjoyed a positive image across much of Africa, but Trump’s recent derogatory comments have severely damaged its reputation. Tillerson’s trip is an opportunity for a reset. Even with a one-dimensional focus and without a signature policy initiative, the simple fact of Tillerson’s trip is a step in the right direction.

John Campbell is the Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Go deeper

Debate night: Candidates' last face-off before Super Tuesday

Sanders, Biden, Klobuchar and Steyer in South Carolina on Feb. 25. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders wanted to keep his momentum after winning contests in New Hampshire and Nevada, while former Vice President Joe Biden hoped to keep his own campaign alive. The other five candidates were just trying to hang on.

What's happening: Seven contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination were in Charleston, South Carolina, for the tenth debate, just days before the South Carolina primary and a week before Super Tuesday. They spoke, sometimes over each other, about health care, Russian interference in the election, foreign policy the economy, gun control, marijuana, education, and race.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

4 takeaways from the South Carolina debate

Former Vice President Joe Biden, right, makes a point during Tuesday's Democratic presidential debate, while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders listens. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The 10th Democratic debate was billed as the most consequential of the primary thus far, but Tuesday night's high-stakes affair was at times awkward and unfocused as moderators struggled to rein in candidates desperate to make one last splash before Saturday's primary in South Carolina and Super Tuesday.

The big picture: After cementing himself as the Democratic favorite with a sweeping win in Nevada, Sen. Bernie Sanders came under fire as the front-runner for the first time on the debate stage. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who will be on the ballot for the first time next Tuesday, was a progressive foil once again, but he appeared more prepared after taking a drubbing at the Nevada debate.

Coronavirus spreads to Africa as U.S. soldier in South Korea tests positive

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

A 23-year-old American soldier stationed at Camp Carroll in South Korea has tested positive to the novel coronavirus, as the outbreak spreads to more countries.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,700 people and infected over 80,000 others, mostly in mainland China. Public health officials confirmed Tuesday the U.S. has 57 people with the novel coronavirus, mostly those repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 hours ago - Health