Billionaire Forced to Apologize for Telling Trump ‘Africa Loves You’

South African businessman and outgoing Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) president Patrice Motsepe looks on while listening to unseen newly appointed BUSA president Brian Molefe speak on May 07, 2008 at the BUSA headquarters in Sandton. The new head of South African business group BUSA said on May 7, he …
GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty

South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe on Tuesday was forced to apologize for telling President Donald Trump that “Africa loves you” after receiving a backlash from lawmakers.

Motsepe heaped praise on the president during a dinner at last week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, prompting African lawmakers to speak out.

“Africa loves America. Africa loves you. It is very, very important,” Motsepe told President Trump. “We want America to do well. We want you to do well. The success of America is the success of the rest of the world.”

The president then thanked the businessman and philanthropist for his glowing praise, replying: “You’ve done a great job, thank you very much.”

South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni responded to the billionaire’s comments by stressing his views were made as a private citizen, not a government representative.

KwaZulu-Natal province premier Sihle Zikalala issued more pointed criticism, stating South Africa has nothing to gain from the president.

In a statement released Tuesday, Motsepe said the debate over his remarks had exposed him to different views.

“I have a duty to listen to these differing views and would like to apologize. I do not have the right to speak on behalf of anybody except myself,” he said.

Motsepe said his remarks were partly aimed at encouraging discussions between the Trump administration and African political leaders amid, “increasing feedback from certain American political and business leaders that South Africa and some African countries are anti-America and its political leadership.”

Motsepe, the first black African on the Forbes billionaires list and brother-in-law of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, was attending a dinner of business leaders from around the world including FIFA president Gianni Infantino, the CEOs of Siemens and Saudi Aramco and the Ivory Coast-born CEO of Credit Suisse, Tidjane Thiam.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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