10 February 2018

Africa: In Trump's Slur Lies Africa's Opportunity to Take Reins

column

If there is news by the Cable News Network (CNN) the media company never fails to miss, it is one of the president that involves United States (US), Donald Trump.

The commentators and the pundits, together with the host, consistently criticise his every move, often without mercy. And it is not like his administration is doing a whole lot to get them to calm down if the recurrent bizarre comments and policy measures are anything to go by.

And, of course, given that he is the most powerful person in the world, his words, not to mention his actions, often have far-reaching consequences. And for the international media, despite repeatedly lamenting that his administration is trying to demolish long-held democratic ideals such as freedom of speech, are enjoying his buffoonery as much as I do a strong black coffee.

The past month's comment of his was no different. It was reported that he referred to Haiti and nations in the African continent using a slur and showed his disinterest to accept migrants from them.

It was shocking to the whole world for few expect such words from the leader of a country that has long been considered the moral spine of the free world. And it made members of the African Union furious because, well, the comment was directed straight at them. At the same time, former ambassadors of dozens of African states wrote a letter on publications such as this that they beg to differ.

I am just wondering how Trump got the courage to say such a hurtful and disrespectful thing about the world's second largest and populous continent, and Haiti.

But I am not one to blame Trump. Instead, I point a finger straight at our leaders who for long have acted as Western countries' mouthpieces for lack of independence. Our relationship with the United States is lopsided in that it does not lie in trade but with aid. This has made all, or most, of the continent's nations to lack policy sovereignty.

It is crucial to understand that Trump would have never said such things if he did not think his country holds the key to our political and economic stability. And for that, no one else can be blamed except the leaders who could fail to imbue us with such features.

Africans do not run away from home because it is their first choice but as a last option. They are trying to escape the lack of a fair economic environment where one could thrive or a political system they feel like they could dictate.

And as such, Trump's words should be a wake-up call to all, or even maybe a blessing. Coupled with the president's "America first" agenda, which most of the world is not nuts about, as it signals an era of protectionism and nationalism, African countries should take the moral imperative to serve as primary providers of their people.

And it should not be shocking to find something honourable in the White House's decision to realise Trump's campaign promises, for I differ to look at it not as someone failing to care about the world, but the attempt to give his country's citizens better attention.

And this should be an opportunity for Africans leaving the continent for the sake of a better life, where we would see more people staying in their countries. It is the sort of silver lining where human capital flight is reduced, but only if our leaders are willing and ready to change.

Instead of decrying a less liberal, less caring America, the "America first" policy should serve as an initiative to allow us to work harder and get out of this muck that is poverty.

It can even encourage the youth where - abetted by a more efficient government - they can be allowed to innovate and play the essential part they are destined to in the struggle for Africa's development.

Without a US that will not bail out, either in times of economic or political crisis, our leaders should find the conviction in their courage to institute strong institutions and force out corrupt officials. The alarm for the continent should be made to sound that economic development by way of innovation and financial resources should not come from overseas, but should arise domestically.

In the new commander-in-chief of the United States, African heads of states have found the chance to stand tall in the eyes of their people. They should be able to set a clear cornerstone for the rule of law, where senior officials become accountable and thread economic structure that can more equitably distribute wealth.

In the North American state three years ago, there were over a couple of million African born immigrants in the US, most of which are Nigerians and Ethiopians, where there are almost a quarter of a million of the latter, according to a recent data by the Pew Research Centre. Many of these migrants are educated and hold college degrees. They serve as an indicator of the type of human resource Africans could have put to great use had better political and economic situations been created.

The time is ripe for African nations to invest aggressively in the health and education sectors, as well as enhance economic integration. With nation's such as the United States and some European countries such as Britain increasingly inward-looking, there could be no better encouragement to work harder and prosper.

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