Photograph — New York Post

The prospects for the US government’s participation in the development of Africa appears to be dwindling as Donald Trump’s plan to drastically cut assistance to developing countries and merge the State Department with USAID, in order to fund other national security objectives edges closer to completion.

A 15-page document obtained by Foreign Policy indicates that the administration’s March budget proposal will see aid to developing countries slashed by over one-third. The document details how the Trump administration’s plans to reduce direct foreign assistance would take place in the fiscal year 2018.

The US contributes the most to global humanitarian efforts around the world, with one percent of its annual budget amounting to 28 percent of the United Nations budget. USAID puts the total sum at $22.17 billion for 2017.

The areas of health and tackling diseases are the major focus in US humanitarian aid. According to NPR, in 2014, the US spent $3.1 billion on HIV/AIDS — about a fifth of the foreign aid budget. The next two big health categories were “Maternal and Child Health,” at about $530 million, and malaria, at about $470 million.

In 2017, the US through USAID is planning to spend about $300 million to boost electricity in Africa by adding 30,000 megawatts of power. $3.3 billion was used to provide emergency feeding and other humanitarian assistance to internally displaced people around the world.

The scope of US humanitarian assistance to Africa and the Middle East is wide. The Washington Post quotes the Director General of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Yves Daccord, “Nobody can replace the U.S. in terms of funding.”

Incidentally, the UN needs $781.8 million to take care of victims of violence and refugees in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda.

Speaking to CNN, Gayle Smith, the last United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator under former President Barack Obama, expressed concern over the effects that cuts could have on emergency assistance from the US.

“If we were to significantly recede, it would be a matter of life and death for a lot of people,” Smith told CNN.

While Africa and parts of the Middle East fret over who will take over the burden of funding from America, questions are also being asked about the impact of foreign aid. The theory is that despite the huge outlay of foreign aid, not much has changed in Africa. The continent is still plagued by war, poverty, low standard of education and diseases.

According to a BBC report, Ethiopia remains one of the poorest countries on the planet. About a third of the population earns less than $1 (63p) a day and it received $504 million (£324 million) from the UK government in 2011/12, making it the biggest recipient of bilateral aid from the country that year.

To reduce poverty, trade and investment have been touted as an alternative to foreign aid. A former African Development Bank president, Donald Kaberuka, champions this as a new alternative source to Africa’s development.

“I believe that it is time to shift the debate from the mechanics of aid delivery to the broader development challenges we will face in the coming years. Aid is only a means to an end. Indeed, if aid is truly effective, it will progressively put itself out of business. Effective aid should therefore be designed with this in mind – to strengthen, not displace, domestic energy and capacity; and to build up, not replace, alternative sources of development finance. This is a new way of thinking about development partnership,” Mr Kaberuka said.

China is already taking up the initiative of investing in Africa. According to Wikipedia, China recently became Africa’s largest trading partner, with trade of US$90 billion in 2009. The United States ranked 2nd, with $86 billion.

Increased trade and investment into Africa will translate to more jobs for Africans and improved standard of living.

Leadership in Africa has to wake up to the new reality that aid will drop significantly and so, there’s the need to step up. It has to come up with ways to tackle issues of insecurity and war that have displaced many around the continent. In Nigeria, 3.6 million people have been displaced by the Boko Haram crisis in the north.

Agriculture and food security should be given a priority now. It is commendable that the Africa Development Bank, AfDB, has released $280 million dollars to support youths who are interested in agriculture. This sort of gesture should be extended all around Africa.

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