Africa Policy In Trump’s Second Term – OpEd

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The election of the next president of the United States will be held this November. If he wins another term, Joe Biden’s policy on Africa is predictable because he has followed a consistent policy and is unlikely to deviate significantly from that course in the next four years. But, what would Africa policy look like in a second Trump presidential term?

Based on the Project 2025 report prepared by a number of major right-wing think tanks and lobbying organizations under the leadership of the Heritage Foundation—along with statements made by leading Republican foreign policymakers and information from the media—the Africa policy that Donald Trump is likely to follow if he wins is also clear.

In the view of Donald Trump and his supporters, many of Trump’s foreign policy initiatives during his presidency were sabotaged by civil servants and disloyal Trump appointees who delayed or obstructed his decisions and plans. So, to ensure the implementation of the “America First” foreign policy agenda in Trump’s second term, the Heritage Foundation and other organizations involved in Project 2025 and Trump’s advisors are currently recruiting and vetting dependable, obedient right-wing applicants to install as soon as Trump takes office in 2025.

This will end the tradition of political neutrality for personnel working in executive departments and federal agencies, and amount to a purge of all personnel who won’t pledge to do whatever Trump demands, however ill-advised, illegal, or unconstitutional it may be.

According to the Project 2025 report and other sources, Trump’s foreign policy agenda for Africa calls for radical changes in U.S. national security policy toward Africa. To begin with, it argues that it is in the U.S. national interest to increase U.S. reliance on working with the French in North Africa to lead counter-terrorism operations and to counter the military and political involvement of Russia in the region and throughout the rest of the continent. “In North Africa,” the report states, “security cooperation with European allies, especially France, will be vital to limit growing Islamist threats and the incursion of Russian influence through positionings of the Wagner Group.”

The report also calls for the United States to convert all foreign aid grants for African recipients into loans and eliminate all development assistance programs, along the lines endorsed by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in February 2024. According to the report, the United States should “shift strategic focus from assistance to growth” and “reorient the focus of U.S. overseas development assistance away from stand-alone humanitarian development aid and toward fostering U.S. private sector engagement” in Africa. “While the United States should always be willing to offer emergency and humanitarian relief,” the report goes on to say, “both U.S. and African long-term interests are better served by a free market-based, private growth-focused strategy to Africa’s economic challenges.”

At the same time, the report maintains that the United States should increase funding for military and security operations by African allies by providing more military education, training, and security assistance, because this is necessary to protect American lives at home and abroad and to protect U.S. companies, targets, and interests in Africa.

According to the report, “African country-based terrorist groups like Boko Haram may currently lack the capability to attack the United States, but at least some of them would eventually try if allowed to consolidate their operations and plan such attacks.  The immediate threat they pose lies in their abilities and willingness to strike American targets in their regions of operation or to harm US interests in other ways.” Therefore, “the U.S. should support capable African military and security operations through the State Department and other federal agencies responsible for granting foreign military education, training, and security assistance.”

The report says that the United States should focus its attention on just a few countries.  “Rather than thinning limited funds across all countries (including some that are unsupportive or even hostile to the United States) the next Administration should focus on those countries with which the US can expect a mutually beneficial relationship” and “after being designated focus countries by the State Department, such nations should receive a full suite of American engagement.”

The report declares that the United Staters should “stop promoting policies birthed in the American culture wars” and stop pressing African governments to respect the rule of law, human rights/LGBT+ rights, political and civil rights, democracy, and women’s rights, especially abortion rights. “African nations are particularly (and reasonably) non-receptive to the US social policies such as abortion and pro-LGBT initiatives being imposed on them,” by the United States, the report declares. Therefore, “the United States should focus on core security, economic, and human rights engagement with African partners and reject the promotion of divisive policies that hurt the deepening of shared goals between the US and its African partners.”

The report contends that the United States must “counter malign Chinese activity on the continent.” In particular, the report insists that the United States should “focus on supporting American companies involved in industries important to US national interests or that have a competitive advantage in Africa.” In its most notable specific recommendation, the report insists on the “recognition of Somaliland statehood as a hedge against the US’s deteriorating position in Djibouti.” This indicates that the next Trump administration will support Ethiopia, which has just signed an agreement with Somaliland to gain access to naval and commercial facilities on its coast in exchange for a promise to recognize it as an independent, sovereign state, against Somalia, Eritrea, and Egypt if this lead to war in the Horn of Africa, as seems likely.

Trump may not be particularly interested in what he once called the “shithole countries” of Africa, but his foreign policy advisors are clearly determined to implement these policies and recommendations if he wins a second term. Analysts sought to paint as positive a picture as they could of Trump’s Africa policy during his first term, praising in particular the “Prosper Africa” initiative to promote US trade and investment. But even they concede that, as John Campbell of the Council on Foreign Relations, put it, Trump, “does not appear to be personally involved in this initiative nor other aspects of US-Africa policy.” And, Campbell admits, “Congress has proven a bulwark against proposals by Trump’s Office of Management and Budget for massive cuts to foreign assistance,” and “had those been implemented, traditional US policies with respect to health, democracy promotion, and security assistance in Africa would have been eviscerated.”  This time around, Trump’s foreign policy advisors are going to make sure that Africa gets the Trump administration’s full attention.

Daniel Volman

Daniel Volman is the director of the African Security Research Project in Washington, DC, and a specialist on U.S. military policy toward Africa and African security issues.

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