Time For a New Policy in Africa
President Trump’s “shithole” comment about Africa drew flak from both Republicans and Democrats for being both racist and ignorant. But some good may come out of this comment, in that some attention may actually be drawn toward US policy in the African continent.
The US has not had a coherent doctrine in Africa since the end of the Cold War, when Communist states collapsed in droves. In 1993, the “Black Hawk Down” incident in which two American helicopters were shot down over Mogashidu proved to many Americans that America had no place in Africa when it came to military intervention. A year later, the Rwandan genocide occurred, in which 800,000 Tutsi were slaughtered. Even today, the Democratic Republic of the Congo remains a hellish warzone, mired with instability and a central government whose presence is hardly felt outside of Kinshasa. Similarly, the Darfur genocide is still ongoing, with native Africans being slaughtered by the hundreds of thousands by Sudanese-backed Arab militias.
China, with its vastly more competent government, has had a policy in Africa. China has become Africa’s largest economic partner, providing both loans and capital to most African nations.Roughly 10,000 Chinese firms currently operate in Africa, ⅓ of which being manufacturing firms. These various firms have created roughly 300,000 African jobs and have propagated Chinese products and culture into the African mainstream. Additionally, China is constructing massive infrastructure projects in Africa, including high-speed rail lines, ports, mines, dams, and entire cities. Through this, China has drastically increased its soft power. It has won the hearts and minds of African governments and people. The end result? Jobs for Africans and investment revenues flowing back into China. It’s a win-win situation.
This is what the United States should be doing. Instead of wasting 125 billion dollars in bureaucracy, the US should be encouraging investment into Africa. The US government should be developing infrastructure in Africa and reducing taxes on African imports, incentivizing corporations to build factories in Africa. Not only will this promote stability, as economic growth leads to peace, but also lead to American firms reaping larger profits and offering cheaper products to the consumer. This is not just economically correct, but morally correct. Working in a factory for decent wages (which are low in Africa given the low cost of living) is a far better situation for a worker compared to toiling on a hot, mosquito-infested field and barely being able to feed one’s family. Additionally, the United States will gain a few nice allies on the African continent as a result of its investment, rather than having all of Africa being allied with China.
The United States must be smart in the 21st century. Increasing trade between the US and Africa, as well as investment in Africa, is the smartest step the US can take when it comes to US policy toward Africa.