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Trump slights Africa in first policy speech to leaders

(GIN) | 9/28/2017, 12:15 p.m.
In a speech riddled with errors, gaffes and whoppers, President Donald Trump greeted African leaders attending the U.N.’s General Assembly ...
The Zimbabwean delegation at the UN

(GIN)—In a speech riddled with errors, gaffes and whoppers, President Donald Trump greeted African leaders attending the U.N.’s General Assembly and lavished praise on the distinguished group for doing an “absolutely incredible job.”

“Africa has tremendous business potential,” he said.

“I have so many friends going to your countries, trying to get rich,” he added, pausing and smiling, to a stunned silence.

He continued, “But it does, it has a tremendous business potential and representing huge amounts of different markets. And for American firms it’s really become a place that they have to go, that they want to go.”

To the leaders who in the past year faced drought, malaria, TB and heart disease, among other crises, he said, “We cannot have prosperity if we’re not healthy. We will continue our partnership on critical health initiatives.”

He made the statement despite a 17 percent cut in the president’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief —an initiative long-championed by Republicans. He could also have mentioned major drives across the continent against polio, which have cut down new cases to record lows.

Uganda received praise for “incredible strides in the battle against HIV/AIDS,” although greater strides were made by Lesotho, according to UNAIDS. “In Guinea and Nigeria, you fought a horrifying Ebola outbreak,” Trump said, only it was Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, not Nigeria, and that was in 2014.

When he announced that the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Thomas Price will be traveling to Africa “to promote our Global Health Security Agenda,” he mistakenly said “our”; the Global Health Security Agenda is a global initiative with more than 50 participating countries.

Trump’s overdue foray into Africa policy belies the degree to which his administration has neglected—and at times even undermined—U.S. engagement with the continent.

The president hopefully knows by now that the name of the southern African country neighboring Zambia is not “Nambia,” but “Namibia.”

Finally, a grant for schools and roads is indeed in the works for the Ivory Coast as part of a project hammered out under the auspices of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, an aid agency created by George W. Bush and minimally subject to review by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation board of directors.

Perhaps most curious was the call by Trump for African countries to create jobs in the U.S. He cited the case of South African chemical manufacturer, Sasol, which is building a gas to liquid facility worth $11 billion in Louisiana and creating 500 jobs. Unfortunately, heavy rainfall associated with Hurricane Harvey shut down construction at its Lake Charles site, which will remain closed until conditions permit work to safely resume.