January 26, 2018
President Trump’s “America First” agenda has reshaped our country in a bold, great way. Our taxes are lower, we have fewer regulations, the economy is roaring and millions of new jobs are being created. It’s working.
For too long, the United States has considered Africa an aid project — one where we pour billions of dollars into countries in hopes they will grow. This short-sighted perspective has caused us to fall behind and leaves us vulnerable.
Trump needs to bring his “America First” approach to Africa. He needs to set aside the old, outdated mindset of the State Department and do what no other president has ever done — advance American interests by treating African nations as partners.
African nations want this too. Just look at Rwanda. Less than 20 years ago, Rwanda’s economy was nearly 70% foreign aid. Now, it’s down to a third. I was there in October and their progress is clear — the economy is booming. They’ll reach their stated goal of being self-sufficient very quickly.
Trump's meeting Friday with Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, marks the start of a new approach to Africa. Kagame is a visionary leader, and he’s highly influential across the continent. He was chosen by his peers to be the next chairman of the African Union after he led reform efforts and outlined a future for Africa that is capable of taking care of itself. His goal is to lead African nations out of dependency so they have real partnerships with countries abroad.
Trump has the opportunity to chart a new course in Africa focused on achieving mutual goals. “America First” in Africa means building constructive relationships to advance our economic and security goals. China is already doing this; without action by Trump, we will fall behind.
African nations are becoming significant economic powers. Between now and 2030, their economies, as a bloc, are expected to grow by a rate of 5% per year. They’ll double. Their growing middle class is increasingly an attractive business market for American companies. While it is the policy of the United States to pursue free trade agreements with African nations, bureaucrats in Washington have prevented it from happening. It’s a mindset problem. They don’t believe African nations are ready, but they haven’t seen what I see: the growth of African economies is providing very real opportunities for businesses all over the world. Trump can change the tone for the better and focus American efforts on creating an environment for American business to thrive.
“America First” in Africa also means equipping our partners to address terrorism and regional security threats before they require significant U.S. troop involvement. Our train and equip missions around the continent are a critical part of promoting regional security, stability and prosperity. U.S. Africa Command (Africom) is already leading the way, but it lacks vital resources and basing. To help our partners become active participants in their own regional security goals, Africom needs a resource boost.
Trump’s new Africa policy will benefit American families by giving us a stronger economy and greater security. He has a willing partner in Kagame. They are like minded, their goals are complementary and they both want to change the focus of our relationships. Partnerships. Not aid. Trump’s “America First” agenda is perfect for a new chapter in Africa; he and Kagame can do it together.