The US government’s relationship with Africa has made headlines across the world since President Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. Dominated by gaffes, mispronunciations and the apparent sheer lack of interest on the part of President Donald Trump, the US government’s disinterested attitude toward the continent has fuelled concerns over the future of the relationship.

With several senior Africa-related positions within the US government still vacant, this has left Washington’s engagement with the continent to other – sometimes less qualified – individuals. The Trump administration’s Africa policy remains confused and uncertain, punctuated by clumsy attempts by various senior politicians to engage.

Key Points

  • With an unprecedented number of Africa-related positions remaining unfilled, the US government still lacks a coherent policy relating to its relationship with the African continent.
  • Aside from a visit each from the US Ambassador to the UN and the US Defence Secretary, it appears that Africa is not high on the list of priorities for senior members of the new US administration.
  • Nevertheless, what is clear is that under Trump, US military presence on the continent is expected to grow – but potentially at the expense of support for good governance and democracy.

One year in office, and it appears that Africa is just not that high on the list of priorities for the new US President.

The US government’s most important Africa role – Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs at the US State Department – has yet to be announced, only having been temporarily filled in September 2017 by Donald Yamamoto. Notably, the lack of a permanent chief diplomat for Africa has caused many to assume that Yamamoto simply does not have the full support of the White House, and therefore has little influence with the President and other senior government officials (Reuters, 23.10.2017).