First Lady of the United States Melania Trump made a goodwill visit to Africa, October 1-7. Her itinerary included the nations of Ghana, Malawi, Kenya and Egypt. The trip was planned in tandem with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Mrs. Trump emphasized support for African youth during her visit, continuing her “Be Best” initiative which she has been promoting in the United States.
Previous First Ladies have made goodwill visits to Africa, including Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Roslyn Carter. President Carter also sent his mother Lillian Carter, a former Peace Corps Volunteer, to several West African nations. Mrs. Trump’s visit was of particular interest since President Trump had been quoted as making disparaging remarks about African countries during a private meeting in the White House, which he has not denied.
In all four countries, Mrs. Trump was given the highest-level welcome with appropriate protocols. Her meetings with officials and ordinary citizens were genuinely warm and friendly. For their part, African leaders used the trip as an opportunity to make it clear that a healthy and constructive relationship with the United States is important to them and to their people.
Will Mrs. Trump’s brief visit make a difference in overall US-Africa relations? While she was traveling in Africa, her husband’s administration was trying to reduce the budget for economic development assistance to emerging nations So far, the US Congress has rejected the President’s request for cuts to foreign aid. Mrs. Trump’s visit to Africa, and her emphasis on the welfare of children, including education, will undoubtedly serve to reinforce the bipartisan inclination in Congress to maintain foreign aid at current levels.
Before the beginning of her trip, I recommended that Mrs. Trump pay attention to the education of girls especially. In Africa, families often cannot afford schooling for all of their children and tend to send their boys to school – and their daughters to early marriages. Educated girls tend to have fewer and healthier children. I am pleased that Mrs. Trump did advocate for girls’ education during her visit, and I continue to recommend that USAID establish a special “Trump Girls’ Education” project as a project initiated by the First Lady.
The First Lady is an excellent representative of all that is good and generous among the American people. She should make a second trip at some point to include French-speaking African nations. Francophone Africans admire the US, and do not want to be written off as being under the influence of Paris.
Congratulations to the First Lady on her contribution to the renewal of the traditional relationship of trust and goodwill between Africa and the United States.