It is no news that the President of the United States, Donald Trump lacks the ability to bridle his tongue, refrain from using crude and demeaning languages and is unapologetic about it. However, it is with dismay that African countries scramble and tremble at every callous statement spewing from the mouth and tweet of the President about them, creating social media hashtags in the likes of #shithole countries and #lifeless president.
In January, Trump disparaged the African continent, Haiti and El Salvador during a pitch to protect immigrants. When a proposal to restore protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and Africa, as part of a bipartisan immigration deal was presented to the president, he remarked, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”
Apparently, Trump expected immigrants from countries like Norway, whose prime minister he had met the day before, other than from Africa the Washington Post reported. One would imagine that Trump hoped to redeem himself and put the shithole countries’ remark behind him when he met with Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari on April 30th to discuss ways to enhance the strategic partnership between the United States and Nigeria, in addition to advancing shared priorities; promoting economic growth, fighting terrorism and other threats to peace and security.
Unfortunately, a president who is willing to put his country first at the expense of other countries could care little about shared priorities or the demeaning words he allegedly used which he denies. In relation to Trump’s shithole countries remark, Raj Shah, a White House spokesman defended Trump saying, “Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people.”
Adding that “Like other nations that have merit-based immigration, President Trump is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation.”
In the heat of the global outrage regarding the shithole comment, Buhari in his white house visit noted that “I’m very careful with what the press says about people other than myself.” He said, “I’m not sure about the validity or whether that allegation against the president was true or not. So, the best thing for me is to keep quiet.”
Unfortunately, Buhari’s silence could not last long as Trump reportedly told his aides he never wanted to meet someone as lifeless as Buhari again, barely 4 months after the Nigerian leader’s visit. This statement sparked yet another hashtag, #lifeless president across social media platforms beginning with twitter.
On August 28, Buhari wasted no time in responding that he was fit, sprightly and not lifeless as alleged by the American President. Earlier, Trump had sparked another controversy, when he tweeted about South Africa regarding the country’s land reforms.
Trump asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to closely study land reform plans and the supposed killing of white farmers in South Africa. “I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and large-scale killing of farmers,” he tweeted.
I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers. “South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers.” @TuckerCarlson @FoxNews
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2018
Calling the tweet narrow and divisive, South Africa clapped back in an official statement saying, “the government of South Africa wishes to caution against alarmist, false, inaccurate and misinformed, as well as – in some cases – politically-motivated statements that do not reflect the policies and intentions of the South African Government.”
The tweets that move Africa
With the America first policy, the demeaning statements and threats directed towards African nations, why do the words of a single man moves a country and the African continent at large?
Well, he’s the president of the United States. But not only that, sub-Saharan Africa is largely dependent on foreign aids. As a continent, Africa accounts for around 20 percent of U.S. aid with Egypt, Kenya, and South Sudan being the biggest beneficiaries. In the name of mutually beneficial aids that promote economic growth and African development, the Western country has been the known saviour leading the continent out of poverty.
Masked under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) whose objectives are to improve economic relations between the U.S and Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and to help the economies of eligible SSA countries grow by giving them preferential duty-free access to the U.S market, Africa believes it is getting mutually beneficial trade deals whereas a critical look shows a packaged aid. AGOA, signed into law on 18 May, 2000 has been described as a One-way U.S. initiative without inputs from Africa.
Africa is getting wiser
In 2016, the United State suspended all duty-free benefits for South Africa because it failed to meet the requirements of a trade deal, this suspension cost South Africa up to $7 million. South Africa’s crime that warranted a suspension was its verbal concerns regarding the outbreak of Avian flu that killed nearly 50 million birds in America and how such incident could pose animal and human health risks to the South African economy.
Despite threats from Trump and the eventual suspension of 3 percent of Rwanda’s total export to the United States under AGOA, Rwanda did not fret or bow to pressure like its East African counterparts, it ignored the U.S and looked to China.
Sub Saharan Africa is increasingly tilting towards China while it stabilizes its Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA). As Africa looks within itself and at other countries, it is gradually moving closer to emancipating itself from America. Trump is beginning to sound like a broken record and soon, no one will take him seriously any more, including Africa.
To do that, in the words of Angelle Kwemo, Washington Media Group’s managing director for Africa, Africans must identify priorities, define, and implement them and not be reactionary to the politics of the West or in this case, the tweets of Donald Trump.