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EIGHT months into his administration, US President Donald Trump still doesn’t have an assistant secretary for African affairs. To be fair, the administration had planned to nominate J. Peter Pham, an academic. But that got nobbled by Republican Senator James Inhofe over his pet issue: Western Sahara.
Even if the senator backed off today, Pham could only be in place by Thanksgiving in late Novemember, at the earliest. The point this podcast from Foreign Policy makes is that, the issue of counter-terrorism aside, the continent gets no consideration by this White House.
That means Trump is ceding decades of bi-partisan engagement, ignoring the strategic (including mercantile) importance of Africa’s youth bulge, and throwing away its soft power eagerly picked up by China. There has been no articulation of a US policy by Trump. But in deeds we’re seeing an administration quibbling over peacekeeping, opposed to the Paris climate change treaty, and spouting a boorish mantra of America First that downplays issues of human rights and justice music to the ears of Africa’s more repressive leaders.
Another way to look at it is that Washingtons neglect is benign or at least fortunate. After all, according to the reports, it was only the realisation of Afghanistans mining potential that got Trump to focus and make his long-awaited decision to stay. That’s the kind of engagement Africa does not need.