In the course of preparing for this week’s inauguration, the Trump transition team has been seeking a lot of information from the outgoing administration, and in the case of Africa, a four-page set of questions submitted to the State Department and Pentagon points to shifting policy priorities.
The questions sought answers for questions about lack of military success on the continent, like why over a decade of fighting al-Shabaab hasn’t led to the defeat of the group, or asking whether it’s even worth looking for Joseph Kony anymore since he’s never attacked US interests and they haven’t been able to find him in years of looking.
The real focus of the questions, however, was on US foreign aid to African nations, and in particular whether, given the enormous levels of corruption on the continent, it’s worth throwing so much foreign aid at the various nations. They sought answers on what percentage of the annual billions sent to Africa ends up stolen en route, which likely no one in the administration can properly answer.
On a more pragmatic front, they asked whether US businesses are competing effectively in Africa, with this too quickly doubling back on foreign aid, with questions about subsidies provided to state-owned oil companies in many African nations, and what the justification for this is.
While a lot of the questions seem to defy answers, or at least answers that justify the status quo, the fact that such questions are being asked at all seems to be raising a lot of eyebrows, which appears to reflect a general lack of interest in questioning the current tack of US policy in Africa up until now, and a lot of concern from officials who understand that any serious questioning is going to inevitably lead to massive shifts in policy.
So while officials were quick to emphasize how comparatively small the foreign aid thrown at Africa annually is in the grand scheme of things, they have no good answer for how much is stolen, or what the aid is accomplishing.