Trump administration ready to disengage from the African continent

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The New York Times

A rail project by a Chinese construction company in Lagos, Nigeria in 2015. The Trump transition team asks, “How does U.S. business compete with other nations in Africa? Are we losing out to the Chinese?”

This week we learned the U.S. administration under President Donald Trump has proposed a budget that would cut foreign aid drastically. The issues, facts, and implications of decisions made under the administration are inescapable.

The State Department, including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) would be greatly impacted by these cuts. If you are not aware, the State Department shapes U.S. foreign policy through diplomacy and it does this through channels and organizations such as USAID.

“The United States spends just over $50 billion annually on the State Department and USAID, compared with $600 billion or more each year on the Pentagon,” according to Reuters.

Before the revelation of the draft administration budget indicating these cuts, there had been plenty of speculation about what might happen with foreign programs under the  administration.

Citing The New York Times, Witney Scneiderman of the Brookings Institution wrote in February  that “the White House budget office could eliminate funding for the U.S. Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. These two agencies generate U.S. jobs and profits and provide critical assistance to small, medium and large American companies competing for market-share across the continent.”

Despite phone calls to African leaders, and other actions, “Africa appears to be on the back burner for this administration,” he said.  In an analysis of the news, others have predicted a “non-existent” Africa policy for the Trump administration as well.

“Because Trump favors protectionism, the argument goes, he will turn his back on Africa and will happily don Obama’s mantle to continue Washington’s minimalist involvement in African affairs,” Indiana University-Purdue professor Didier Gondola said.  Meanwhile Gondola also said that Trump, like former president, George W. Bush, might surprise his critics by implementing sensible policies for the continent.  I guess we’ll wait and see.

Nevertheless, the decision to propose a stringent foreign aid budget does not make sense if you are going to implement sensible policies for the continent.

But while the U.S. appears ready to reduce aid to the African continent, the Chinese remain committed to cooperation with the countinent. As a matter of fact, Beijing is unwavering, despite concerns over competition there with America, noted in this analysis from Foreign Affairs magazine.

“Among a list of questions that the president’s transition staff submitted to the State Department about U.S. policy in Africa was one that asked, “Are we losing out to the Chinese?”

What is unclear is what they’ll do to boost trade, business and cooperation with the continent.

If one thing is true, it is that whatever the Trump administration chooses to do, it sure will attempt it. Think about the immigration order to ban people from Muslim countries from entering the U.S.  While the order is stuck in court, there are still plans to revive it with a new order.

So, on the question of limiting foreign aid, while there is opposition to the idea from people such as U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, the administration sure will try to do what it says it plans to do.

I have never been a fan of much foreign aid directed at the African continent. African nations need to take control of their own destiny in the twenty-first century. Yet, it is true aid that is properly channeled to solving regional and transnational issues such as with HIV/AIDS, democracy, good governance and conflict, can go far in reducing problems such as poverty.

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