South African mining tycoon Patrice Motsepe has apologised for telling US President Donald Trump that Africans love him.
The billionaire made the statement following a backlash, with critics saying he had no right to assume the role of Africa’s spokesman.
“I have a duty to listen to these differing views and would like to apologise,” Mr Motsepe said.
He had praised Mr Trump at a dinner in Davos, Switzerland.
“Africa loves America. Africa loves you… We want America to do well. We want you to do well,” the tycoon told Mr Trump at the World Economic Forum event earlier this month.
South Africa’s opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) said Mr Motsepe had been motivated by “selfish business interests”.
“Motsepe’s statement is an insult to the African-Americans who have been directly affected by Trump’s racism,” the EFF said at the time.
Mr Motsepe said his comments to the US president were partly aimed at encouraging discussions between the Trump administration and African political and business leaders because of the perception “that South Africa and some African countries are anti-America and its political leadership”.
“This perception has had an impact on our ability to attract foreign investments and create jobs,” he said in a statement.
His comments had triggered a “lively, diverse and at times emotional debate”, exposing him to the views of Africans who disagreed with him.
“I do not have the right to speak on behalf of anybody except myself,” Mr Motsepe added.
Mr Motsepe, 57, is one of South Africa’s most influential businessman and is close to President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Forbes magazine listed him in 2008 as a billionaire and said he had become the first black African on its list of the world’s wealthiest people. It estimates his current wealth at $2.4bn (£1.85bn).
At the dinner, Mr Motsepe told Mr Trump it was an honour to meet him as they were both listed in a 2017 Forbes magazine profile of the Greatest Living Business Minds.
“You’re doing a good job,” Mr Trump replied.
A video of the event was widely shared on Twitter:
Africa loves Donald Trump according to Patrice Motsepe #BabesMampintsha #ThursdayMotivation #etvScandal #Uyajola99 #djzinhle #Mampintsha #thursdaymorning #GRAMMYs #CoronavirusOutbreak @_AfricanSoil @AdvoBarryRoux pic.twitter.com/D0U7rpTjmm
— Ndisha Makhari (@ndisha) January 23, 2020
A poll published earlier this month by the US-based Pew Research Center found that while people in most countries had low confidence in Mr Trump to do the right thing in world affairs, he garnered 65% support in Kenya and 58% in Nigeria.
South Africa, the only other country from sub-Saharan Africa to be included in the poll, recorded 42% confidence in Mr Trump.
The US president is yet to visit Africa and has made comments that have disparaged the continent.
In 2018, he denied that he was racist, after a row broke out over his alleged use of the word “shithole” to describe African nations.
The African Union later demanded that Mr Trump apologise for his “clearly racist” remarks.
But days after Mr Trump’s reported comment Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni said in a speech: “I love Trump, he tells Africans frankly. The Africans need to solve their problems.”
He recently raised eyebrows on the continent for suggesting that he, not Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, deserved to win the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.
Last year, the American leader told four US congresswomen to go back to the “crime infested places from which they came”.
The women were all born in the US apart from Ilhan Omar, who was born in Somalia and moved to the US as a child. BBC News