Historically, Africans themselves were never seen as strategic partners. Instead, African nations were marginalized as pieces on the strategic chess boards of other nations. The disrespect continues with the Trump Administration’s so-called ‘Prosper Africa’ policy.
In a speech delivered by Trump’s white nationalist National Security Advisor at a known racist organization called The Heritage Foundation, China was mentioned at least 15 times. South Sudan, the most-cited African country, came up just five times. Djibouti was mentioned once in relation to a Chinese military base there.
You can watch the full speech below.
While John Bolton’s speech failed to clearly articulate what America’s new policies mean for Africans themselves, here are 3 ways that the Administration’s agenda could impact the Continent.
Things Could Go From Bad To Worse For The Most Vulnerable Africans
In his speech, John Bolton emphasized that the United States will cut its support for nations that that fail to align with US strategic interests.
“We will make certain that all aid to the region, whether for security, humanitarian, or development needs, advances U.S. interests,” he said. “Countries that repeatedly vote against the United States in international forums, or take action counter to U.S. interests, should not receive generous American foreign aid.”
US Aid has a very real and positive impact in parts of Africa ravaged by natural disasters or disease.
In the image above, the child on the left is five months old and her sister on the right is three years old. Both children are the same physical size. “The older sister was born during a severe drought which meant she hadn’t received adequate nutrition during the critically important first two years of life. As a result, her growth was severely stunted.”
The picture hangs on the wall of of an aid organization called Helen Keller International as a reminder of the importance of their nutritional programs – programs that could lose funding under Trump’s Prosper Africa policy.
If funding for programs that support the most vulnerable Africans are cut, scores of Africans could find themselves with nowhere to turn.
“I’ve seen firsthand how U.S. development money saves millions of lives” said Tom Kenyon, the CEO of Project Hope, a global health nonprofit. “There’s just no question people would die from this.”
“We’re going to see a lot of deaths that will be easily preventable actually come to fruition,” warned John Norris, a former USAID employee who now serves as the executive director for the Sustainable Security and Peacebuilding Initiative at the Center for American Progress. “We’re going to see our own country much more vulnerable to the spread of infectious diseases as we saw with the Ebola crisis. Things that start abroad can quickly erupt here.” (Source)
In addition to food instability, cuts to aid could create global health crises as well. According to The Guardian:
Aids funding would be cut… which would allow people currently receiving treatment to stay on their meds, but would dramatically reduce the number of new enrollees. Because the promise of treatment is an important incentive for HIV testing, these cuts would likely disrupt testing too. That means more people transmitting HIV unknowingly and eroding the hard won gains that have limited the spread of HIV over the past decade.
Incredibly, this is not even the worst news on the global health front. The budget proposal seeks to take a much bigger chunk out of non-HIV health programmes – cutting their funding by half. These programmes work – they have brought polio to the brink of global eradication, helped reduce malaria deaths by more than half since 2000, vaccinated millions of children each year, and expanded access to basic health care. Cutting these programmes means more children dying of malaria, resurgence of preventable diseases like polio and measles, and many, many other deaths besides. By weakening public health systems, these cuts also increase vulnerability to major epidemic threats like Ebola and Zika.
Proxy Trade Wars With China May Damage African Progress
Its no secret that the United States uses trade as a tool to advance their own interests without regard for other parties. Take for instance the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). According to the US State Department, the act is meant to “promote deeper trade ties and fair trade with sub-Saharan African states.”
However, AGOA contains a clause requiring participating African countries not to oppose US foreign policy, and its eligibility requirements force nations to favor trade with America. With Trump’s Prosper Africa policy, AGOA could be used as a bargaining chip that staves off Chinese investment.
Here is AGOA’s (original) eligibility criteria found in Section 104 of the Act:
(a) The President is authorized to designate a sub-Saharan African country as an eligible sub-Saharan African country if the President determines that the country
(C) the elimination of barriers to United States trade and investment, including by–
(iii) the resolution of bilateral trade and investment disputes;
On the surface, AGOA beenfits African nations by giving them broader and cheaper access to US markets. But this access comes at the cost of Africa developing its own trade capacity.
With the Trump Administration prone to instigating economic conflicts, Africa could find herself a casualty in a proxy trade war with China at the expense of trade between African nations.
Today, only 16 percent of trade in Africa takes place between African countries. This is a problem that is only made worse by pieces of legislation like the United States African Growth and Opportunity Act.
African Troops Could Be Used To Fight American Wars
China is exercising major moves as a global military power on the continent, opening up a key military base in Djibouti and deploying peacekeepers in South Sudan, Mali, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Plus, there’s the training and education opportunities it’s providing thousands of African leaders, bureaucrats, students, and business people.
Russia has also followed this approach in recent years, signing agreements to establish economic zones in Eritrea, exploring opportunities in accessing minerals across southern Africa, and enhancing military and technical cooperation with nations like the Central African Republic.
In contrast, the Trump Administration appeared to cut its military operations in Africa in 2017 – a move it has backtracked on with the announcement of the Prosper Africa policy.
To counter the threat of an increasingly influential Chinese and Russian military presence, the Trump Administration seems to be using its never-ending War on Terror to create proxy forces on the African continent.
One such proxy force is the G5 Sahel Joint Force. G5 is an acronym for the group of 5 African nations ( Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Chad ) that make up a force of 5,000 military and police personnel drawn from national battalions.
Up until now, the G5 Force has been backed by French dollars and administration. However, an increase in US funding – which is needed to fill gaps in the orgnanization’s budget – would place the force under US control.
Every unified superpower on Earth has a strategy for Africa. The question then is when will Africa unify and develop a strategy for herself?