You might not have noticed the cheering but there are some serious praises coming out of Africa for Trumpism.
Africa’s despots, dictators and iron-fisted rulers rather seem to like our new president. Trump and they struck quite a few bar buddy poses at DAVOS.
Trumpism at DAVOS couldn’t be clearer: America is turning back the diplomatic clock by nearly a half century. The Kagames, Musevenis and other ironfisted African leaders couldn’t be happier.
Global Trumpism is essentially isolationism. Stability trumps all else. One of Africa’s most ruthless dictators, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, criticized Trump for his vulgar remarks captured during an immigration meeting in Washington, but he changed his tune at DAVOS:
“I wanted to thank you for the support we have received from you, personal, and your administration. And we’re looking forward to also working with the United States …so that we get our act together to do the right things,” Kagame was quoted saying to Trump at a meeting they held in DAVOS. “I thank you very much.”
The next-door, next most ruthless dictator, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, praised Trump for being ‘frank’ and calling Africa “a weak continent.”
He added: “The US president must thanked for telling Africa the truth.”
Neither of these two dictators nurtures any illusion that they can sweet-talk Donald Trump into doing anything nice for them. Rather, they simply want to keep Trumpism at arm’s length, something they’ve been unable to do with other U.S. administrations for the last half century.
This allows them to torture and jail opponents at will, rule by edict and not get the typical dressing down from the United States of which they’ve been so accustomed.
Unlike freer countries like Kenya and Nigeria which are tiptoeing around Trump’s vulgarity so as not to suffer any further cuts to aid or restrictions on trade, it fits Rwanda and Uganda’s national ethos to praise a man like Trump. They have much in common.
The ass-licking might not help them, though. Trumpism could care less about Africa, the good guys or the bad guys.
Efforts are already underway in Trumpism to merge up to a dozen different development agencies that have been effectively assisting Africa for decades into a single aid-giving authority.
Business interests applaud this, but the effects of merging the missions of agencies as different as AIDS management, entrepreneurial investment, and judicial training with the massive programs of USAID can’t be helpful.
Quite to the contrary, the single mission will be simply to enhance America’s trade position with Africa. There will be no concern for humanitarian and social development.
What’s more: even at its optimum any advantage America can swindle out of current African trade will be a drop in the bucket of American GDP. It’s likely that this singular trade strategy replacing all American global values is being applied to Africa simply because the American government now has no interest in developing any goals more specific to Africa than the world as a whole.
Trumpism’s strategy isn’t unique. Global institutions like the IMF have always approached Africa – and the world – this way. Suddenly we find the entire ethos of America walking lock step with organizations like the IMF.
Shortly after the DAVOS conference the IMF praised Tanzania for “economic inclusion.”
Tanzania is doing much better economically than most expected. It may be taking an important lead in battling corruption. The national agenda that manifest this good news would have been near impossible under the former more democratic regimes. Edicts from an albeit very thoughtful and legitimately representative ruler is why it’s happening.
We’ve returned to the era of the benevolent dictator if not as America’s expressed interest, the inevitable outcome of America’s singular interest.
What Magufuli must consider is that the half century since Kenyatta and America’s close relationship with Kenya, the balance between Kenya and America has only grown in America’s favor. The gap between the rich and the poor in the world, whether individually, by country or region, only grows.
That dastardly gap is the ultimate flaw in this regimen of isolationism and economic stability. The balancer needed is the humanitarian one, but for the time being that’s not in the cards between Africa and Trumpism.