(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. I have so many friends going to your countries, trying to get rich,” he said, pausing and smiling, to a stunned silence. “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.”
“We cannot have prosperity if we’re not healthy,” he reminded the leaders who in the past year faced drought, malaria, TB, heart disease, among others. “We will continue our partnership on critical health initiatives.” This despite a 17% cut in the president’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)—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,” 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 will be traveling to Africa “to promote our Global Health Security Agenda,” he mistakenly said “our” although the Global Health Security Agenda is a global organization with over 50 member countries.
Trump’s overdue foray into Africa policy belies the degree to which his administration has neglected—and at times even undermined—US 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 Millennium Challenge Corporation, an aid agency created by George W. Bush and minimally subject to review by Secretary Tillerson and the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation.
Perhaps most curious was the call by President 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 eleven billion dollars in Louisiana and creating 500 jobs. Unfortunately, heavy rainfall associated with Tropical Storm Harvey has shut down construction at its Lake Charles site which will remain closed until conditions permit work to safely resume. w/pix of the Zimbabwean delegations at the U.N.