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Hilary Clinton begins Africa trip

The US Secretary of State has begun her Africa trip which will take her to South Sudan and South Africa.

US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Picture: AFP.

DAKAR - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Senegal on Tuesday, beginning a trip that will take her both to Africa's newest nation South Sudan and on a private visit to the continent's elder statesman, 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela.

While Clinton's public focus will be on Africa's democratic achievements and economic potential, the trip also underscores US security ties in the face of growing threats - from Islamist militants to narcotics cartels.

"The security threats are becoming much more visible and in some ways dangerous than they were before," said Jennifer Cooke, the head of the Africa program at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

"There are big global issues on the table, and the US does not have the kind of finances available to mount splashy new economic initiatives in Africa."

Clinton's trip - potentially her last as America's top diplomat - will take her to South Sudan on Friday, where she will be the most senior US official to visit since the country declared independence in July 2011.

Further stops include Uganda, Kenya, Malawi and South Africa, where Clinton will stop in Mandela's home village of Qunu on Monday for a private meeting with the revered liberation leader who has quietly faded from public view in his formal retirement.

Clinton will conclude the trip on August 10 at the funeral of Ghana's late President John Atta Mills, whose sudden death on July 24 has been followed by a smooth transition in one of Africa's most stable democracies, US officials said.

Throughout the trip, Clinton is expected to highlight US programmes on development, education and HIV/AIDS along the backbone of US engagement with Africa as well as US economic interest in a continent whose rich resources and enviable growth rates have drawn rival suitors including China and India.

She will also likely emphasise projects for women and girls, one of her central themes in a job she says she will leave in January even if President Barack Obama is elected to a second term.

But Clinton's visit is also part of a US push to broaden security partnerships with key countries such as Uganda and Kenya, ties that are growing fast despite sometimes serious US concerns over democratic governance.

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