Editor’s Note: Frida Ghitis will return next week with her weekly Thursday column.
Since the end of the Cold War, American relations with Africa have been characterized by a single, powerful trend: disengagement. Its direction has been so constant that it is tempting to think of it as a fixed given, but that would be a mistake. In reality, over the past three decades, this troubling trend has only accelerated.
As the civilian bureaucracies that are supposed to lead American foreign policy have steadily disengaged from Africa, they have been eclipsed by the Pentagon. Of course, every few years Washington still rolls out a tepid rebranding of its low-wattage trade and investment policies toward the African continent. The Trump administration’s version is something called “Prosper Africa.” But when it was unveiled at a summit in Mozambique last June, the truest reflection of prevailing American attitudes toward the continent came from the fact that Washington couldn’t even muster a Cabinet secretary to attend the event.