Speaking on "U.S. -Africa Relations: A New Framework", Tillerson said over the past century, as African nations emerged from their colonial past, there had been a dramatic increase in America's engagement with Africa.
Tillerson had reiterated the importance of democracy for Africa to achieve her potentials. He is expected to carry the message that the U.S.is committed to assisting Africa, but that prosperity and stability will be impossible until its security is brought under control.
Separately, a State Department official told the Nation that stepped-up U.S. air strikes in tandem with Amisom and Somali government attacks are inflicting damage on Al-Shabaab.
With Trump showing little understanding of the continent - the president has made very few remarks that show a proper understanding of the continent, but Tillerson's visit would give us a clearer insight into the possibility of any beneficial partnership to evolve between the continent and the United States. As one senior State Department official briefing reporters on condition of anonymity put it: "There's really no deliverables".
More than $110 million is for affected populations in Somalia and over $128 million for millions in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region.
For Tillerson, who did not visit Africa during his first year as the top US diplomat, it may be that the best way to show deference to a continent suspicious of Trump is to listen.
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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson heads to Africa and into some political crises in Ethiopia and Kenya.
Tillerson says the United State's free market philosophy makes it open to other countries investing in Africa. "When do we get to see the outlines of what the Trump Africa policy is?" Trump has not named an assistant secretary for Africa to oversee the continent, nor an ambassador to key countries like South Africa.
Tillerson is scheduled to arrive in Ethiopia on Wednesday.
Tillerson's words came just before his departure later on Tuesday for an 8-day tour of Africa.
The trip, his first official visit to Africa, as Secretary of State, will begin with a trip to Ethiopia and later to Djibouti from where he will go to Kenya and Chad before coming to Nigeria.
China is aggressively working to expand its regional influence, which is something of concern to US lawmakers.