By Global Information Network
Long-time Africa specialists who have looked at a four-page list of Africa-related questions from the Trump transition staff say they are seeing an American retreat from development and humanitarian goals while business opportunities will be getting an extra push.
The four-page list has been making the rounds at the State Department and Pentagon, according to the New York Times.
Of priority interest to the new administration is the prospect of dollars to be made in this “new” frontier. One of the first questions on the list went straight to the point: “How does U.S. business compete with other nations in Africa? Are we losing out to the Chinese?”
On the other hand, aid and development assistance that benefit Africans are wasteful enterprises that will be stolen or pocketed by corrupt officials, one point on the list suggests. “Why should we spend these funds on Africa when we are suffering here in the U.S.?” the transition team asks in the unclassified document provided to The New York Times.
Terence McNamee of the Brenthurst Foundation in South Africa downplayed the impact of the new administration on the continent. “The gut instinct for most Africans – and I accept I am generalizing here – is that President-elect Trump is not only oblivious and ignorant about African issues, but by the virtual complete absence of any mention of Africa during the campaign, it is going to be very low on his list of presidential priorities.”
“Until the new president’s team is finalized – that is, who the secretary of state will be, who’s the head of USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development), trade representative and so forth – basically, Africa doesn’t have a lot to go on except the president-elect’s campaign rhetoric.”
Aside from the ubiquitous talk of trade deals, the Trump has won no hearts and minds for its anti-Muslim views, noted Fatima Sadiqi, a professor of linguistics and gender studies at the Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University in Morocco.
“His attack on Muslims was reacted to very negatively here,” Sadiqi said, adding: “Generally it’s thought to play into the propaganda of the terrorist groups on the continent.”
The growing trend of extremist groups like Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Qaida’s AQIM in Mali and al-Shabab in eastern Africa present all kinds of challenges to African governments, she said.
Still, the future of the African economy, which is slowing down in some places, is a big source of concern, Sadiqi said.
“If Trump’s campaign ideas are put into practice, the situation will worsen . . . Especially, we hear a lot about the president-elect refraining from trade deals and foreign aid.”
According to The New York Times, “J. Peter Pham, who has been mentioned for the job of assistant secretary of state for African affairs in a Trump administration, said he does not expect Mr. Trump to do a complete U-turn in relations with Africa.”
Pham is director of the Africa program at the Atlantic Council. He said he expects Trump will emphasize fighting extremism on the continent, while also looking to enhance opportunities for American businesses.
“In other questions, the Trump transition team challenges the benefits of a trade pact known as the African Growth and Opportunity Act.,” The New York Times says.
“Most of AGOA imports are petroleum products, with the benefits going to national oil companies, why do we support that massive benefit to corrupt regimes?” the questionnaire asks.
Yet Pham said he expected a Trump administration would support the pact. “AGOA has created more than 120,000 jobs in the United States,” Pham said in an interview with The New York Times.
A big unknown, though, is how a Trump administration will handle foreign assistance to the continent and its 54 nations, the newspaper reports.
Robin Renee Sanders, a former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria and a big supporter of President Barack Obama’s Power Africa program, said she hoped such an initiative wouldn’t be abandoned.
“There have been an additional 3,000 megawatts of power added to the grid as a result of Power Africa,” she told VOA. “You have the ‘Electrify Africa’ legislation; you have a number of off-grid projects that are supported by USAID and the African Development Foundation.”