THE AFRICA BAZAAR MAGAZINE
March 12, 2019
The United States government on Monday unveiled a trade-focused budget proposal for Africa, requesting a $664.7 million that will help boost America’s trade investment on the African continent but slim down traditional foreign aid dependency.
The proposal, which is included in President Donald J Trump’s new $4.7 trillion Fiscal Year 2020 budget that his administration released at the White House, is expected to significantly increase U.S.’ overall business investments in African industries such as energy, and small-medium-sized enterprises, leveraging American private sector to equivalent government-led investments in Africa
If approved by Congress, the budget will dispense $50 million to the newly created U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, which will support development projects in Africa and other developing nations, $50 million to a Prosper Africa, a new Presidential initiative and $70 million will go towards financing energy projects through the Power Africa initiative.
The new budget, which still has to be approved by the Congress, demonstrates the Trump administration’s new vision and business-minded strategic approach to Africa, a pivot from the traditional foreign-aid, and reflects the administration shifting priorities as well as interests to accelerate and take competitive advantage to unlock new opportunities across Africa.
While the overall $4.7 trillion budget is expected to meet resistance in Congress during negotiations, African-related issues and projects always have remained largely bipartisan, receiving supports from both republicans and democrats in Congress and experts expect this support to continue.
The proposed requests, which build upon America’s longstanding steady trade relations with Africa through its various government-led programs such as African Growth and Opportunity Act, President’s Emergency Plan For Aids Relief, and Power Africa, initiatives started by President Trump’s predecessors, former Presidents Bill Clinton, G.W. Bush and Barack Obama, will continue the robust engagements with African nations by supporting democracy, socioeconomic development, economic empowerment, and the fight against terrorist insurgency on the continent of Africa.
While the U.S. has made major progress in increasing its investments in Africa over the years through its government-led programs such as Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and Millennium Challenge Corporation, it still lags behind major European nations and emerging nations like Japan, India, and China -its number one competitor on the African continent.
Recently, the Trump administration has been making meaningful strides to minimize Chinese influence in Africa. The FY 2020 budget proposal for a $120 million for direct trade investments with African nations through Power Africa and Prosper Africa initiatives will help jump-start American investments and counter balance China in Africa.
However, some critics say the administration should have done more to increase the investment amount, especially since it is cutting-off financial assistance to the African Development Bank for the FY 2020.
In addition, critics say while the administration’s recent decision to streamline its development agency, U.S. Agency International Development, along with other development financing agencies into a consolidated unit through the BUILD Act to create the new DFC, is expected to improve efficiency and help optimize America’s investments in Africa as well as in other developing countries, the consolidation nonetheless could jeopardize some of the USAID programs such as global health services.
On one hand, while the overall $4.7 trillion proposed budget provides fundings for global health programs such as the PEPFAR program, it however reduces or cut-off financial assistance to important international organizations like the United Nations and its agencies, including the World Health Organization, which provides global health services and organizations that provides family planning, reproductive health services to women in developing countries or whose works the Trump administration does not deems directly affect America’s national security interests, or for which the funding burden is not fairly shared among members. Experts continue to warn that cuts to such programs will prove detrimental to the health of many women in developing countries who have come to depend on those programs for their health care.
On the other hand, the administration budget proposes $492 million to help address global food crisis, funding food security programs that advance agricultural development to improve economic growth, and reduce malnutrition. Additional $123 million will go towards strengthening resilience to cyclical food crisis by leveraging the private sector investments, donor and host-country contributions.
The administration also proposes $100 million for global women’s economic empowerment that will be administered by White House-led Women’s Global Development and Prosperity initiative.
Educational and cultural exchange programs such as Young African Leadership Initiative, and Fulbright program administer by the State department to encourage cultural, and professional training exchanges between the U.S. and its overseas partners also receives a financial spur in the FY 2020 budget proposal.
The administration also plan to continue supporting counterterrorism efforts on the African continent through military education, capacity building as well as supporting peace keeping initiatives. The budget proposes $40 million for the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership, an interagency program designed to build capacity and cooperation of governments across West and North Africa to counter terrorism, especially Boko Haram, al-Qa’ida and ISIS-West Africa.
The budget also calls for a $20 million grant to be given to poor and remote communities in Africa to support their developments.