African countries have been recipients of foreign assistance since their independence. It is undeniable that some U.S. development assistance programs, especially the people- and country-centered ones such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the Africa Development Foundation (ADF), have shown lasting results in programs that stimulate local economies and reduce aid dependency (such as sustainable agriculture, youth entrepreneurship, and improved access to power). Despite these successes, many experts argue that the provision of foreign assistance has, at times, developed a culture of dependency in Africa and fostered paternalism—as opposed to partnership—by the U.S. and elsewhere.
Though aid to Africa looks like it will get cut, it doesn’t mean that U.S. engagement will too. Trump must continue to engage Africa: The region is of paramount importance because of Western reliance on natural resources, trade, economic opportunities, and long-term security issues. In fact, American engagement in Africa largely serves American interests. For example, creating African jobs is not just important for economic growth; it affects national and global security. In particular, youth unemployment often serves as a powerful recruitment tool for insurgency and terrorist organizations.
Similarly, former President Obama’s Power Africa initiative aiming at addressing the much-needed power poverty in Africa created more jobs in the U.S. because of the opportunities given to U.S. companies. Additionally, the program will save American taxpayers $86 million over five years. The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), whose budget is also in jeopardy, had increased its energy portfolio for feasibility studies by 800 percent, creating U.S. export avenue for energy companies. Encouraging a mutually beneficial pro-business approach that will create jobs in the U.S. and Africa could be a very successful strategy. Greater private sector engagement will boost local economies and reduce long-term dependency on aid.
Trump continues to pursue policy that he believes would have the greatest return for the American people. In the same way, African leaders should not be dismayed by possible cuts in foreign aid, instead, they should actively seek to create the enabling environment necessary to boost local economies, attract foreign investment, negotiate transfer of technology, encourage private sector growth/competitiveness, and increase regional integration.