Trump ‘potential game changer’ for Africa
NEW YORK — Development experts at the annual Foresight Africa panel hosted by the Brookings Institution believe development and business opportunities for President Trump’s administration in Africa are vast, ranging from technology and infrastructure to road creation and renewable energy.
But they also said it is too early to know exactly what the Trump administration’s priorities are regarding the continent.
Angelle Kwemo said that domestic priorities for Trump and his team will likely take precedence over international ones. “Today we are all speculating,” said the director of Washington Media Group’s Africa practice.
“He [Trump] has not prom- ised anything to the African constituency because we did not support him, so we can’t hold him accountable for anything because he hasn’t given any signals as to what he will do,” Kwemo continued.
Fears around Trump’s plans in Africa increased drastically with the recent publication in the New York Times of a four-page questionnaire from his transition team to the State Department that posed questions such as, “Is PEPFAR worth the massive investment when there are so many security concerns in Africa? Is PEPFAR becoming a massive, international entitlement program?”
Some of the questions clearly had a critical and abrasive tone, including “With so much corruption in Africa, how much of our money is stolen? Why should we spend these funds on Africa when we are suffering here in the U.S.?” This has left some observers wondering if Trump will radically reduce American engagement with Africa.
But others struck a less alarmist note, speculating that Trump’s involvement in Africa could take time to develop, just as it took President Barack Obama an entire term before making a visit to Africa and launching the Power Africa Initiative, which happened in 2013.
Dr. Ken Opalo, assistant professor in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, suggested that the president’s background in business might be good for Africa.
“Business and jobs are what end poverty,” Opalo said. “And if he [Trump] sticks to a pro-business agenda that might be good, especially to the extent that he brings American companies onto the continent.”
But the overall message emerging from the forum was clear: Don’t get too carried away with asking if Africa is a priority for Trump or not because it’s just too early to know for sure.
Kwemo said that, though a continuity in policy would be ideal, she also urged African leaders to “stop waiting for heaven to come from somewhere else” and instead “take responsibility and think about their own strategies.”
US President Donald John Trump.