By Paul Schemm
Africa’s leaders consider a future when the U.S. no longer cares
At the African Union’s annual summit meeting in Addis Ababa that ended Tuesday, Africa’s leaders heatedly debated a number of issues, including whom to elect as chairman, whether to admit Morocco, and whether to walk out from the International Criminal Court. But beyond the official agenda was a sense of unease over what many see as a new era of nationalism ushered in by the election of President Trump.
Outgoing African Union chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma departed from her prepared remarks opening the summit to lash out at Trump over his executive order banning refugees.
“It is clear that globally, we are entering very turbulent times. For an example, the very country to whom many of our people were taken as slaves during the transatlantic slave trade has now decided to ban refugees from some of our countries,” she said.
“What do we do about this? Indeed, this is one of the greatest challenges to our unity and solidarity,” she said.
“Because of the rapid fire and unconventional methods by which Trump has upended vital relationships from Mexico and China in a matter of days, one cannot assume continuity in any of America’s initiatives in Africa,” he said in a lecture in the Ethiopian capital timed to coincide with the summit.
He added that Trump’s public backing of torture would also send the wrong message to the continent’s autocrats.“It is outrageous, it is absolutely outrageous,” he said.
One of the long proposed solutions has been a continentwide free-trade agreement, which members said is more urgent than ever.
“If you look at the world, if you look today at the United States and its policies, people are talking more about nationalism and [bringing] back jobs to America,” said Fatima Haram Acyle, the commissioner for trade and industry. “Africa also needs to focus on really its own priorities, its own markets, its own people.”
She was echoed by the outgoing deputy chairman of the union who admitted that with the election of Trump and his “America first” rhetoric, member states have a new impetus to make this free-trade agreement a reality.
“What we hear of the pronouncements from the U.S. president, it makes it even more urgent that we must move quickly,” said Erastus Mwencha.
“It will take a long time to establish these things, you can’t do them overnight, but if there is one thing that will in the longer term lead to a more peaceful Africa, it will be an Africa trading more freely with itself,” said Elissa Jobson, an expert on the African Union with the International Crisis Group consultancy.
“It makes sense with or without Trump,” she said.
Culled from: The New Washington Post