This week, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari was the first leader from sub-Saharan Africa to visit the White House, 15 months after President Donald Trump took office. Trump, by contrast, hosted leaders from every other major region of the world within the first few months of his presidency. The only other African leader he has welcomed to the White House is Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, more than a year ago.
In his Rose Garden press conference with Buhari, Trump pointedly did not deny calling African nations “shithole countries” earlier this year, in widely reported comments made during a meeting in the Oval Office—and he also didn’t apologize for them. Instead he dug in, saying of Africa that “you do have some countries that are in very bad shape and very tough places to live in.”
It was the latest sign of the damage Trump is doing to America’s image in Africa. There is still no permanent assistant secretary of state for African affairs—the key Africa specialist in any administration—to give direction and substance to U.S. policy on the continent. At least 11 American embassies in Africa are still without an ambassador, including South Africa, Tanzania and South Sudan.