WASHINGTON — Newly-elected President Trump’s foreign aid policy has created uncertainty for foreign nations dependent on U.S. support. Prior to Inauguration Day, the Trump transition team released a list of queries about U.S. policy in Africa, apparently dismissive of many longstanding aid programs. Trump’s foreign aid policy demonstrates concern that corruption in Africa has already led to a large amount of U.S. aid being stolen, and is focused on business opportunities and U.S financial gain.
Monde Muyangwe, the director of the Woodrow Wilson Institute’s Africa program, told the New York Times that the questions themselves do not raise concern, but their framing and overall tone have dangerous implications for the future of foreign aid under President Trump. One example is the life-saving President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), created in 2003 under President George W. Bush. The questionnaire asks whether PEPFAR has become “a massive, international entitlement program.”
Foreign policy experts suggest that any program that provides aid to Africa warrants reexamining. In Uganda, for example, the United States provides more than $700 million in aid each year, funding a variety of life-saving programs, including crucial and free HIV/AIDS medication to those who would otherwise not be able to afford it.
Journalist Michael Igoe suggests that given Trump’s foreign aid policy focus on United States business interests, it seems likely that there will be a serious shift. Igoe says “one conceivable step” toward realigning foreign policy and protectionist business interests would be to absorb USAID into the State Department. This would also allow Trump to cut down on the number of federal agencies, promoting the Republican ideal of smaller government.
In addition to changing U.S. foreign aid, the new administration’s policies on immigration could have implications for millions. According to the Pew Research Centre, 90,000 Kenyans live in the United States and a third of them are here illegally. These 30,000 Kenyans could be deported if the new administration lives up to its promise. Kenyans in the United States and Canada sent home an estimated $60 million in remittances in 2015 and deporting these immigrants would cut off a significant portion of this income.
In addition, Trump has vowed to end scholarship programs that allow young people from poor countries to study in the United States, a program that enables many young people to create bright futures for themselves and their families. In a town hall on Fox News, Trump said that he would continue to provide foreign aid to countries like Pakistan that pose a security risk, but implied that the United States would play a more limited humanitarian role.
Foreign aid remains a bipartisan issue, and many aid programs like PEPFAR were created under Republican administrations. In addition, the obstructionist congress that Obama faced meant that the aid measures that did pass received bipartisan support.
Foreign aid is a critical part of America’s foreign policy for humanitarian, economic and national security reasons. That Trump’s foreign aid policy seems dismissive is cause for concern to people all around the world, but it will remain up to Congress to continue providing life-saving foreign aid around the world.
– Eva Kennedy