1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Trump wins few friends in Africa

Martina Schwikowski
January 17, 2018

In his first year in office, US President Donald Trump has not made many friends in Africa. People across the continent are furious about his latest remarks against immigrants. But not everyone is negative about him.

US president Donald Trump smiling at a group of African heads of state during a luncheon on the sidelines of the UN general assembly
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/E. Vucci

On the streets of many African countries, US President Donald Trump is the talk of the town. Hisreported use of the term "s***hole countries" when discussing immigration from Haiti and various African countries has offended many on the continent.  Trump's alleged comments reinforced a long-held view about the US leader —many people label him as racist. Anger about Trump had already risen in his first year in office, for example when he signed an order in January 2017 that banned citizens from several, mainly Muslim, countries from entering the US. Sudan and Somalia were among the affected countries.

Many Africans take to social media platforms to express their anger or content with Donald Trump. Bispo Inocêncio Jm Jm, a young Angolan, writes on Facebook: "This is the worst president ever in US history. The US must choose its future representatives well, rather than a psychopath like that". Iberth Garcia, also from Angola, has a completely different view though: "Until the present moment, President Donald Trump demonstrated that he is a man in favor of the truth. He unmasked the worst presidents of Africa", she countered on Facebook.

Trump's friends on the continent

There are more supporters too. Ismaili Togolani says: "Donald Trump has made America great again to be honest. Believe me, the world needs a leader like Trump right now, otherwise, there won't be any respect. He has his shortcomings, but whatever he has done for America in the one year that he has been in power is commendable."

Somalis protesting against President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital
Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital sparked protests among Muslims in AfricaImage: picture alliance/AP Photo/F.A. Warsameh

But despite such admiration, most comments about Trump appear to be negative. "We cannot count on Trump. He is unpredictable.", writes Sekou Samake from Mali. Barack Mganga Mwanamichezo from Kenya's capital Nairobi is also rather disappointed: "I don't see anything substantial that he has done for America other than creating enemies for that country. Look at the legacy left by Obama, he did things that not only America is proud of, but also Africa and the world at large."

Africa demands an apology

Trump has come under immense fire for his "s***hole" comments, which is the latest in a string of derogatory statements he has made, or is alleged to have made, about immigrants. On Thursday last week, he reportedly questioned why the United States would want immigrants from "s***hole" countries like Haiti, El Salvador and some African nations during a private briefing on draft immigration legislation in the White House, according to participants who were present. Trump denies that he used the term.

South Africa's governing African National Congress has described his reported comment as "extremly offensive." Botswana's government  called them highly "irresponsible" and "racist".Several African governments have summoned US ambassadors based in their countries as a result of Trump's alleged remarks. Africa Union spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo said that the 54 nation body was "frankly alarmed." "Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice," she said.

Barack Obama shaking hands with people holding US flags during a visit to Tanzania in 2013
Critics say that Africa also wasn't a priority for former US president Barack ObamaImage: Getty Images/AFP/J. Watson

'Africa is far down the priority list'

But some people hold a different view. "I do not think Trump‘s remark is a wrong word for many very badly governed African countries", says Frans Cronje, Chief Executive Officer of the South African Institute of Race Relations, a political think-tank. It is the political decision those goverments took to supress human rights and economic decisions that keep their countries impoverished that cause them to be places where very few of Trump's critics, including journalists and outraged social justice activists, would like to live."

Cronje also does not think that the Trump administration has a particularly negative impact on Africa. "Africa is an issue that is very far down the priority list for American politicians and diplomats, let alone the occupant of the White House", he told DW. Cronje is also cautious about previous narratives, that the Obama administration was good for Africa and the Bush administration wasn't. "There is no substantial trade, aid or diplomatic data to back up such claims", he told DW.

Autocrats do not fear Trump

Zimbwean journalist Savious Kwinika is more critical about Trump's impact on the continent, one year after he took office. He thinks autocrats will not suffer any consequences from the Trump administration, and conversely might even benefit from him. "His improper statements and outbursts give them leverage in doing what they are doing. America is spreading hate speech and violating each opportunity to unite the world", Kwinika told DW.

Tanzanians pose with cutouts of Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump ahead of the US presidential elections in 2016
It's unclear whether Africa would have got a better deal in economic terms if Hillary Clinton would have won the pollsImage: Getty Images/AFP/D. Hayduk

Many African journalists, from all over the continent, are very angry about Trump, says Kwinika, who's the editor of CAJ News, a network of journalists based in Johannesburg. Many members of the network report almost daily onTrump and his statements.

"Whatever Trump says, causes chaos in the world. But in Africa, due to his latest utterances, temperatures are boiling everywhere. There is no respect towards Africans who were exploited in America when they developed the country hundreds of years ago", Kwinika said.

According to Kwinika, the controversial leader does not value the relationship with Africa as previous American leaders did. "The relation that we are currently have is that of a master and a slave," he stated.

Skip next section DW's Top Story

DW's Top Story

Two women speak to a crowd holding EU and Moldovan flags
Skip next section More stories from DW
Go to homepage