The Republicans and Africa

Luyolo Ngcuka wrote last week on the perils for Africa in light of the mid-term elections in the USA and the resurgence of the Republican party. He argues that Obama’s four-pillared policy on Africa can be considerably threatened by Republican feet in the House of Representatives, and along with that the promise of a glut of aid money from American banks. For the most part this is not wrong, but it misses the point entirely.

In a nutshell, it should not be America’s responsibility to prop up an entire continent with aid when their own strategic and economic priorities lie elsewhere. To paint the Republicans as robbers of African aid coffers is irresponsible. For example, Ngcuka notes that Chair of the House Kay Granger is an unashamed hawk, her policies often prioritising military spending over that of foreign aid. In the American context defense spending as a portion of GDP under the Obama administration has actually soared beyond that which his predecessor managed, and yet we are now meant to snipe at the statesmen underneath for their own budget priorities simply because they’re republican? The reality is that a Republican controlled house might result in a reduction of foreign aid spending in the mid-term, but from an American perspective this is not a particularly bad strategic move for a superpower rattled to the core from a major recession. Moreover, this is not to say that the USA would reduce all its concerns in Africa, if at all. Bush junior made great strides in many different aspects of America’s foreign policy in Africa, yet was depressingly overshadowed by an atmosphere of anti-American/Bush sentiment which saw a lot of this overlooked. In recent history Republicans have actually done many good things in Africa when compared to their Democrat counterparts. It was a Democrat (Clinton), after all, who oversaw the fiasco in Mogadishu 17 years ago, to name but one example.

Furthermore, Obama’s 4-pronged strategy on Africa, to encourage democracy, promote economic development, better healthcare and prevent conflict through propping up African bodies involved therein, are all incredibly ambitious even by Ngcuka’s admission. And yet he warns that the Republican resurgence could well shoot this project in the foot before it even really begins. But again, this is far too simplistic an interpretation of Obama’s politics. The president has so far proven to be incredibly mediocre in delivery on his election promises, which is why the Republicans did so well in the mid-terms in the first place.

Africa is strategically-valuable to America, certainly, but we would do well not to overemphasize our sense of self-importance.

To belittle the Republicans’ resistance to a policy approach which Obama hasn’t incorporated in two years because it’s too early to see it to fruition is a fault of analysis from an afro-centric point of view and not the politicians in Washington. Africa is strategically-valuable to America, certainly, but we would do well not to overemphasize our sense of self-importance.

Obama’s approach to Africa, particularly in that of security, are not in parallel with American policy needs. To expect the Republicans to encourage and fund peacekeeping mechanisms over which Americans would have virtually no command in a strategic environment which has proven actively hostile towards American intervention (ie Africa Command) would be a great free pass for Africa peacekeepers to continue getting it wrong in all corners of the continent, but it would not be prudent for any Republican to allow. In terms of American economy, security and politics, there are far better approaches to Africa than Obama’s and the democrats. We as Africans would do well to acknowledge that our suspicion of Republican resurgence is more a paranoia of losing some coins from the beggar’s basket rather than a failure of the American polity.