Business News of Monday, 2 October 2017
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has expressed confidence in the policy direction of the Donald Trump-led administration of the United States (US) towards Africa, saying he is upbeat about better days of investment and trade relations between Africa and the US.
The President expressed the optimism in an interview with a group of journalists on his recent visit to the US where he attended the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York.
During the visit, the President and seven other African leaders held a meeting with Mr Trump.
President Akufo-Addo said the policy that emerged from discussions with the US President was that Mr Trump recognised the tremendous potential Africa had for the development of its various economies.
A positive ‘Trump’ attitude
In view of that, President Akufo-Addo said, one of the take-outs of the meeting with President Trump was that the US would be very engaged in promoting trade and investment with Africa.
Also, he said, it became abundantly clear that the US was shifting from its foreign policy of aid to Africa to a relationship underpinned by mutual trade and investment.
“For me, I welcomed it because I feel that the aid culture and dependency have not served us particularly well and that it is time for us to move away from them. So it was good to see and hear an American President say that now America’s policy has pivoted from a focus on aid to a focus on trade and investment,” he added.
The President said at the end of the day enhanced trade and investment were the most sustainable basis for long-term economic engagement between countries, not aid. “We’re going to see to what extent the new programmes that the American government is going to put out in the coming days, weeks, months and years ahead reflect President Trump’s new focus.
“We will see the programmes and initiatives they are going to put out; but we are ready, for our part, to participate and partner the US, especially, if this is the focus of American policy and leadership,” the President said.
On the overall perspective of the meeting with President Trump, he said while he could not speak for the other African Presidents, he believed that “he (President Trump) made a good impression largely because of his attitude”.
He said President Trump conceded that although he had not yet visited Africa, he was prepared to listen, adding that the US President’s posture disarmed the perceptions some at the meeting had about him. According to the President, everybody at the table left the meeting with a good impression that Africa was now in a position to engage with the US on a policy framework that all could look at.
A crucial pivot
“For me, the pivot was he (Mr Trump) saying he was more concerned about what could be done to promote more trade and investment between the US and our countries and even spoke about investment from Africa to the US,” he noted.
President Akufo-Addo reported that the American President was emphatic that “we should not see investment as a one-way process and that companies in Africa which want to invest in the US are welcomed. I think all of that is defining the direction of American policy”.
President Trump, he said, was also concerned about security issues and how the US could be of help in the common fight against terrorism and extremism on the African continent.
“It is potentially an important development in the relations between the US and those of us on the African continent,” he pointed out.
Commenting further, the President said the meeting with President Trump was the first time to hear him Mr Trump articulate an Africa policy because one of the problems many African leaders had before that meeting was that they had not heard him talk about Africa.
“So when we got the information that he wanted to meet with a few of us, it was a very important moment,” the President added.
Space to resolve differences
On the potential for dissent regarding the totality of the policies of the Trump administration, the President said while agreeing on the broad framework and context of American policy, there were bound to be differences.
He cited the new immigration policy of the US as one area where there was disagreement with the US.
“But I believe given the manner in which President Trump went about his interaction with the eight African leaders, there would be space to look at these differences in a constructive manner,” President Akufo-Addo related.
On the UN General Assembly meeting, he said although he had, as a Foreign Minister under former President John Agyekum Kufuor, participated several times in UN General Assembly meetings, he had not had the opportunity to formally address the gathering.
The first UN experience
“I had the opportunity to address the UN for the first time as President and it was something that was a great privilege to me and I enjoyed that so much,” he recounted.
Based on the number of interactions that took place and the content of what was discussed in all those meetings, the President said it was obvious that Ghana was regaining its pride of place among the comity of nations.