He was greeted at the airport in Addis Ababa on a red carpet by the Ethiopian foreign minister before taking a motorcade to his hotel.
For South Africa, the diplomat said the country will play a critical role in attracting United States investment and trade in stimulating economic development in the continent.
At the same time, key ambassadorships in South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo and other nations remain unfilled, along with the continent's top diplomatic position, the assistant secretary of state for Africa.
As he did in Latin America, Tillerson warns Africa about the dangers of too much Chinese aid and investment, which he blamed for "opaque contracts, predatory loan practices, and corrupt deals that mire nations in debt and undercut their sovereignty".
He said his country, in contrast to China, puts emphasis on promoting independent and sustainable growth in Africa.
FILE - Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (3rd-L) watches the opening of the SGR cargo train as it leaves the port containers depot in Mombasa to Nairobi, May 30, 2017.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Geng Shuang, was responding to the accusation of USA that low interest loans from China and other countries have driven some sub-Saharan African countries deeper into debt.
Acting Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Don Yamamoto told journalists on Monday that US diplomats were becoming concerned about the high levels of Chinese debt some nations were incurring.
On Somalia, Yamamoto said the country stands a chance at peace and stability if its government reaches out to federal governments and engage with the local leadership.
Yet as Tillerson said, guns and alms "only buy us time".
China has expressed the hope that other countries would do more good for Africa's development and treat China-Africa cooperation in a fair and objective manner.
He was due to visit the African Union where many officials are still smarting from U.S. President Donald Trump's reported dismissal of member states as "shithole" countries in January. Security and counter-terrorism will be high on his agenda in Djibouti, Chad and Nigeria.
"I mean, just one example is if your cell phone is 10 per cent of that material that comes from resources in Africa, in the next decade it's going to be 25 per cent".
According to him, he looks forward to returning and building on a strong foundation of U.S. -Africa relations, including visiting Chad, a country that has never before welcomed a visit by the Secretary of State.
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