On U.S.-Africa Relations: Interview with David Shinn

On U.S.-Africa Relations: Interview with David Shinn

September 1, 2018| Arlaadi Online


Ambassador David Shinn (@ AmbShinn ) is a former senior US diplomat who served in the US State Department for more than 30 years with different assignments including Ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso. He is an adjunct professor of International Affairs at the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University. Shinn frequently provides commentary on the ongoing political and security issues in Africa and the US policy in the region. His current research focuses on Sino-African relations

I interviewed David Shinn about the US policy in Africa under President Donald Trump, China’s expanding influence in Africa and how that affects the US presence in the region and the security of the Horn of Africa which is experiencing a new era of militarization by regional powers in the Middle East, like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Turkey.

After 16 months in office, President Trump has recently appointed Tibor P. Naggy to become the US Assistant Secretary of State to Africa. While a number of analysts argue that Trump’s foreign policy is not very interested in Africa, the US National Security Strategy that was published in December last year stated that ‘Africa contains many of the world’s fastest growing economies, which represent potential new markets for US goods and services.’ During the Trump-Buhari meeting in the White House last month, they both discussed expanding economic and commercial ties between the two countries, as Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy. Does that mean that the US policy towards Africa is shifting from humanitarian aid to trade and investment? In addition, if confirmed by the Senate, how do you think Ambassador Naggy will reshape the US policy towards Africa?

I do not believe that the Trump administration is backing away from humanitarian aid (food and emergency assistance) to Africa, but it does seem to be in the process of reducing development aid. The goal is to replace some development assistance with trade and investment. The problem is that the U.S. government does not control trade and investment; it is largely determined by the U.S. private sector and global economic forces. The only significant weapon that the U.S. government has to encourage trade and investment is funding from the Export-Import Bank (EXIM). Since 2009, EXIM has supported about $6.6 billion in transactions throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. When annualized, this is a modest sum and the Trump administration has shown no inclination so far to encourage more funding for EXIM.

U.S. policy towards Africa has demonstrated considerable continuity since the end of World War II, even when a Republican administration replaces a Democratic one. I expect this trend to continue. Tibor Nagy is a retired Foreign Service professional who knows the continent well and has worked for both Republican and Democratic administrations. The Trump administration has already indicated its intention to continue support for the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (approved during the Clinton administration), The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (the Bush administration), and Power Africa (the Obama administration). Each new administration adds its own initiatives; it is too soon to predict what Ambassador Nagy will recommend.

In December 2017, The US National Security Strategy published under President Trump classifies Russia and China as ‘revisionist powers’ that pose a threat to the United States. Another strategic document that was issued under President Trump, the National Defence Strategy designates China as a ‘strategic competitor’ to the United States. Beijing’s investment in Africa increased rapidly for the last two decades, so how does the new complex and challenging great power competition among the US, China and Russia affect the security and the political stability in Africa?, Read more On U.S.-Africa Relations: Interview with David Shinn

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