Making Sense of ‘America First’ in Africa


Hometruths By Adeola Akinremi;

Oh! There was plenty of debate in New York this week.

The 72nd Regular Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 72), at the UN Headquarters on Tuesday had several interesting part as leaders read speeches prepared for them and in some cases by themselves.

Of course, sidelines and hallways provided lobbyists and nonprofit leaders the opportunity to ambush many of them. They either want more promise or fulfillment of the ones they made over the years. That’s the norm at almost every global conference, where government leaders speak from their heads and not from their hearts.

But we must not forget why they came to New York this week. It was for global peace and decent life for everyone. The theme, ‘Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for All on a Sustainable Planet’, expressly captured it.

Really, people have different opinions about what leaders say or did not say. I’m concerned that inclusive global village is under threat and can spell doom, even for the United Nations as a force of unity. But I love the three words repeated multiple times by America’s President Donald Trump.

“Strong, sovereign nation,” are the three words Trump used to challenge his colleagues from around the world. How we interpret the words of Trump will depend on our leanings.

I see it as a strong motivation for African leaders to work hard, shirk corruption, build stable democracy, and economy for their citizens. I can only hope we’re seeing from the same side of the lens.

Of course, there’s a dangerous path for the United States, if it leaves its leadership position in the UN by reducing contributions and doing little to strengthen the global community.

To be sure, China is on the heels of the U.S. and it is one country that has shown strong interest in helping low and middle income countries of the world. Since it sets its sight on Africa, China has made tremendous business deals and has become a beautiful bride in infrastructure development in Africa, in particular. China could as well take over the UN with its super influence on global economy.

Interestingly, in another sign of other countries with influence seeking to take advantage of the U.S. no brother’s keeper policy to promote their own agenda, Israel offered hope to African leaders during the general assembly.

In New York, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, met with leaders and representatives of African countries on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly to discuss technology and education. Netanyahu has seen a blank and he wants to fill it for his own benefit. In the long-age Israeli-Palestinian crisis, overtures that create support for what Israel wants have become necessary tonic.

A readout from Netanyahu’s office confirmed that the meeting was part of Israel’s increasing efforts to renew and rejuvenate ties with African states.

The Times of Israel quoted readout from Netanyahu’s office stating that the Israeli prime minister “told his interlocutors that he believes that Israel could be an amazing partner for their countries. He said that technology changes everything, including in communications, medicine, agriculture and education. He noted that Israel wants to share its technology with African countries.”

And to match his words with action Netanyahu didn’t allow a gap in the dialogue, he simply pushed the start button by attending an exhibition together with his new-found friends, where Israeli tech firms presented their products to African leaders attending the general assembly.

To put his country brand on it, the exhibition was titled ‘Israeli Technology and Innovation for Africa’.
So with a no brothers’ keeper choir out there the place of the influence of the United States around the world will shrink. My biggest concern is how this will impact democratic rule as despots in many countries will chant “mind your business” anthem back to the United States anytime the U.S. seeks to intervene in another country’s deplorable situation as it has done previously to engender peace and prosperity.

In a sense, the citizens of such countries under bad leaders will continue to suffer without help.
Reasonably, many other things will be impacted. The global institutions such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organisation, and more will suffer the effect.
Notably, the global flow of trade that has more than doubled since 1990, because of open economies that has lowered the cost of goods and services will be a victim.

It is a fact that more countries are relying on export-led growth and that has helped turned the tide for citizens. The purchases from developed economies have equally increased influence of countries like the United States around the world just as it has strengthened global partnership.

But in ‘America First’, in those three words of President Trump, there’s a message for Africa, a continent where inequality and social upheaval raise questions about the future of children born on the continent. All of you must be out for your country first, was a simple paraphrase I can make from Trump’s speech.

For what I interpreted it to mean, Trump is right. My preoccupation here is the African leaders who have failed over the years to build a strong and virile continent, making each country strong, stable and sovereign. They should take the words of Trump to the heart, and make lives better for their citizens. Nothing can be more truthful!

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