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Updated Apr 8, 2020

While there is much that can be criticized about President Donald Trump’s handling of European alliances and affinity for strongmen like Vladimir Putin, Mohammed bin Salman, and Kim Jong-un, his administration’s foreign policy toward Africa has been consistent with past administrations, and has even expanded some beneficial policies. One of the signature initiatives of the Trump administration has been the BUILD Act, which established an International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) to augment the existing Overseas Private Investment Corporation. These entities help guide US businesses to invest in developing economies, the majority of its portfolio located in sub-Saharan Africa. DFC also boosted the limit of investments from US$29 billion to US$60 billion. 

Unlike past presidents, however, Donald Trump has been personally absent from many of the policy initiatives toward Africa. That said, the appointment of Tibor Nagy as assistant secretary of state for African affairs in July 2018 has been crucial in American efforts to support Sudan’s political transition after the removal of dictator Omar al-Bashir, pressure the Democratic Republic of the Congo for the removal of Joseph Kabila, and promote peace initiatives in Cameroon.

That said, the Trump administration’s aversion to vigorously addressing climate change is worrisome for Africa, which is already suffering from some symptoms of climate changes such as floods, droughts, locust swarms, and irregular rainfall. It has also been slow to address the continuing threat of terrorism on the continent, preferring to let Europe and African alliances handle the brunt of the fighting and financing. His attempts to ban travel from Muslim majority nations over alleged concerns of terrorism, which has included Chad and expanded to Nigeria recently, has soured public opinion of the United States among many African.


Why It Matters

Whatever one may think about the Trump administration, sober analysis of its successes and failures toward Africa is needed to suggest better alternatives for American foreign policy on the continent. Should Trump win re-election in November, these recommendations will be all the more important to ensure that American support does not dry up for the continent, otherwise Africa will likely move closer to China, India, and the European Union, thus weakening the United States’ presence on a continent whose population is expected to double by 2050 and whose economies are some of the fastest-growing globally.

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