Last month, the Trump admiration presented their budget proposal; among a plethora of cuts, it includes a call to completely eliminate the African Development Foundation (A.D.F), an agency that gives grants in the form of seed capital and technical support to community enterprises and small businesses on the African continent.
The A.D.F. functions as an alternative to aid money; it is designed to encourage self-sufficiency and entrepreneurship. The foundation focuses on ventures by farmers, women, and young people, particularly those in post-conflict communities. Last year, the A.D.F generated $80 million in new local economic activities.
The administration’s proposed termination of the A.D.F turns Trumps America first rhetoric into action. Trump and his followers have publicly voiced their opposition to the United States doing anything in Africa, and have wondered why the country should be interested in the continent at all.
The administration’s mood towards Africa has been one of carelessness and disdain. A further example that highlights this mood is when the State Department did not grant visas to any of the roughly sixty African delegates who were invited to the annual summit on trade in Africa hosted by the University of Southern California. A summit meant to bring together representatives of business and government interests on the continent and in the United States.
This White House seems convinced that any aid to Africa should be viewed as a hand out that America should not be giving. Take the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a program started by former Republican President George W. Bush which helps fight H.I.V./AIDS on the continent. The Times reported that during the Trump transition, the team’s questionnaire to the State Department asked if PEPFAR was a “massive, international entitlement program”—welfare for Africans, in other words.
I don’t mean to assert here that all aid and investment to Africa successfully achieves its objectives. It is completely legitimate to question whether aid given to some African countries disappears into corrupt pockets. The point here is that this administration seems hell bent on cutting aid and investment to Africa, that saves lives and creates economic progress; while increasing military spending by $54 billion.
As Reuben Brigety wrote in Foreign Policy magazine; “The focus of [Trump’s] foreign policy on defeating the Islamic State and rebuilding the U.S. military, while ignoring issues of common concern like climate change or food security, leaves many Africans to wonder what type of partnership they can expect from his administration on these issues of vital importance.”
Fortunately, Africa will not need to worry too much about the lack of US investment, because countries like China continue increasing their investments on the continent and are capitalizing on profitable opportunities. The president’s budget proposal will undoubtedly hit resistance from congressional leaders; the hope is that congress disapproves of major cuts in investment to Africa or risk losing more opportunities to China.