Carson finds best hope for U.S. Africa policy to be “benign neglect” outside security sector (update)

[Update: Rex Tillerson was confirmed as Secretary of State today, with the votes of those Republicans who had raised questions about his commitmant to human rights and other issues related to his career long tenure at oil major Exxon.  He takes over a State Department where perhaps 1,000 officers and employees have signed a leaked “dissent” from President Trump’s immigration and refugee order impacting those of Somali, Sudanese and Libyan nationality, among seven countries.  Tillerson has said he was not consulted on the Executive Order.]

Former Obama administration Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson finds “Trump’s Africa policy unclear and uncertain” but expects a broad pulling back from existing bipartisan programs in a piece at African Arguments:

. . . .

Trump has exhibited no interest in Africa. Nor have any of his closest White House advisors. Except for some campaign comments about Libya and Benghazi, the new president has made very few remarks about the continent. And despite his global network of hotel, golf and tourist holdings, he appears to have no investments or business relationships in sub-Saharan Africa.

The one member of Trump’s inner circle that may have an interest in Africa is Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson. He has some experience of Africa because of his many years in the oil industry with ExxonMobil, most of whose successful dealings on the continent were with largely corrupt and authoritarian leaders.

If Tillerson appoints a moderate and experienced Africa expert to run the Africa Bureau – and there are a dozen Republicans who meet that definition – and if he is able to keep policy in the control of the State Department, African issues may not be pushed aside completely. But irrespective of who manages Trump’s Africa policy, there will be a major change from recent previous administrations.

President Obama pushed a strong democratic agenda and launched half a dozen new development programmes including Power Africa, Feed the Future and the Global Health Initiative. Before him, Bush’s “compassionate” approach led to the establishment of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), two of America’s most widely-praised programmes on the continent.

But Trump’s view is more myopic . . .

Under Trump, any focus on Africa will likely be on military and security issues, not democracy, good governance or human rights.  These policies are likely to find greater favour with Africa’s autocrats than civil society or local business leaders.

. . . .  Photo from church of African-American freedmen from Cumberland Island, Georgia for Black History Month

2 thoughts on “Carson finds best hope for U.S. Africa policy to be “benign neglect” outside security sector (update)

  1. The eight years of Obama-Clinton/Kerry attention to Kenya saw the expansion of counter terror activities–without any apparent end in sight–the promulgation of a reform Constitution that revoked lawfully acquired Frrehold title from Americans and other Noncitzens, that saw no attention paid to legitimate issues faced by US citizens living and working in Kenya all capped off by the historic visit by a sitting American President that cost $80 million dollars and achieved no quantifiable results.
    Kenya has enjoyed a free ride under AGOA for the last decade; its textile assemblers source cotton, buttons, zippers, snaps, dyes, etc from producers in China, Pakistan and India effectively sending jobs to those countries rather than employing Kenyans up and down what should by now be a fully functioning value chain.
    The 2010 Constitution also cancelled 999 year leaseholds and foreign owned companies such as Delmonte are faced with demands by the newly created counties to either cede land or just go away when the legacy 99 year leases expire; already expired leases are not being renewed.
    Other than spending nearly $1 billion annually–grants not loans–US Government assistance has not been effectively spent. Somewhat perversely I find myself in agreement with what I understand has been the Trump Shock to Kenya which is where I’ve lived since 1981; if all politics is local and Trump had raised these legitimate concerns during the campaign I might very well have written his name into my absentee ballot. In fact I’m one of those Americans who can truthfully say that my genuine concerns have been ignored by the US Embassy in Nairobi as well Senators and people in the White House; I can’t make this stuff up and have no confidence in the American government!

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