Secretary of State Rex Tillerson answers questions about the relationship between the US and countries in Africa, at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Tuesday, March 6, 2018.
Tillerson is scheduled to arrive in Ethiopia on Wednesday.
During his trip, he will be looking to build bridges after President Donald Trump reportedly used foul language to describe African countries in January.
"We partner with African countries by incentivizing good governance to meet long-term security and development goals...this stands in stark contrast to China's approach, which encourages dependency".
Over the past two decades trade between Africa and China has soared, driven by China's demand for the continent's minerals.
"Although Africa needs sustained investment and engagement from members of the worldwide community, China has been largely a negative actor in the region for some time", Smith said.
Tillerson will also visit Kenya, where the political system is in turmoil over disputes related to President Uhuru Kenyatta's re-election. The project, a $3.3 billion investment backed by China, is the country's largest infrastructure undertaking since independence. That was in contrast, he added, to USA efforts to bolster democratic institutions, strengthen the rule of law, and improve governance and long-term security goals.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will soon visit several African countries.
In Ethiopia, for example, total US investment of around $567 million, is dwarfed by Chinese investments, which are more than $15 billion, according to the State Department.
He said China has focused on extending financial support in the fields of infrastructure building and productivity improvement.
"The U.S. -Africa versus China dynamics doesn't necessarily have to be, I think, an either/or", said Christina Golubski, an assistant director of Brookings Institution's Africa Growth Initiative.
His itinerary includes a meeting with the leadership of the African Union Commission, which is based in Addis Ababa.
For Tillerson, who did not visit Africa during his first year as the top U.S. diplomat, it may be that the best way to show deference to a continent suspicious of Trump is to listen.
It falls to Tillerson to mend the damage as he travels to the continent on Tuesday, becoming the most senior United States official to set foot there since Trump took office more than a year ago.
Other countries that Mr. Tillerson will visit are Nigeria, Djibouti and Chad, countries ravaged by the threat of terror and corruption.
"To understand where the world is going, one must understand Africa is the future", Tillerson said, noting Africa will be home this year to six of the world's 10 fastest-growing economies and will have one-fourth of the world's workforce by 2030.
He said China has contributed significantly to improving the environment for economic development and investment in Africa, and stressed that it has helped boost African countries' capability for sustainable development. However, experts highlighted that the visit had no other motivation than to study ways for the United States to be bale to economically benefit even more from Africa, because the grounds of the USA foreign policy give priority to capital over any other aspect.