Is the Trump administration finally cozying up to Africa after all the barbs and offensive language directed at the continent by the American leader earlier this year?
Well, if you consider Nigeria's President Mohammadu Buhari's Monday visit to the White House as a sign that the once frosty relations between Africa and the United States have thawed, then of course, things are really looking up. The visit, it should be noted, was the first by a leader from sub-saharan Africa.
As per news reports, the two leaders privately discussed a vast array of issues --trade, immigration, terrorism and religion --- of importance to the world's only remaining superpower and Africa's wealthiest and largest nation.
Later, at a press conference on the White House Lawn, both men fielded questions from a gaggle of reporters. One question that we all knew would be asked of the two leaders pertained to Trump's alleged defamatory and obscene remarks about Africa countries in January. He is reported to have referred to Africa and other developing nations in the Caribbean as "shitholes."
I watched the entire presss conference, the news junkie that I am and was least impressed by Mr. Trump's answer, but more agitated by Mr. Buhari's non-answer and pathetic evasion of the question.
"I am not sure about, you know, the validity of whether that allegation against the president is true or not. So the best thing for me is to keep quiet," he said.
"What?" You ask. yes, you are reading it right. That was Mr. Buhari's answer. It was deeply troubling and not unexpected. Remember in the immediate aftermath of the alleged horrible remarks by Trump, he met a group of African leaders at the G-20 and none of them had the guts to call him out.
Power dynamics aside, Buhari missed a golden opportunity to politely inform the supremely ignorant Mr. Trump that Africa has progressed significantly in the last twenty years, and what is more, he should have referred him to data that show that six of the thirteen fastest growing economies in the world in 2017 were all in Africa, a fact that is lost on most folks in the West who still cling to the worst stereotypes about Africa that it is diseased, pathetically poor and doomed.
Africa should not be defined by what afflicts it. The continent and its people are soldiering on despite the immense challenges.