First Lady Melania Trump’s trip to Ghana, Malawi, Kenya, and Egypt beginning October 1 is a welcome signal of the Trump administration’s interest in African development, and its relationship with security and prosperity in the United States.
Mrs. Trump’s expressed interest in the welfare of African children, in tandem with her “Be Best” initiative for American youth, is a wise approach, since people under 30 represent a majority of Africans. These African youth will make or break the success of its nations.
I am pleased that childhood education will be one issue in focus on the trip. Economic prosperity and security will depend on expanding educational access to all children, boys and girls, who also tend to have fewer and healthier children after schooling. But despite widespread poverty, for most children school is not free. Parents have to make decisions about who gets to attend school in the average African family of about five children. Sadly, education for boys tends to take priority over that of girls, and many young women never attend school, marrying early.
While in Africa, I hope that Mrs. Trump will also consider the role she can play domestically in pushing for an expansion of U.S. programs fighting malaria, a top killer of African children. There have been several recent breakthroughs in prevention which should be introduced to Africa, with American support.
Mrs. Trump’s choice of Ghana as a destination is particularly appropriate, since Ghana is one of the few African countries to have achieved real democracy. Ghana has free and fair elections, and if the regime candidate loses, they step down to make way for the winner in a peaceful transition. I recommend that Mrs. Trump highlight this strength, as quality democratic institutions are still quite rare in Africa, and a perennial priority for U.S. Presidents.
In Ghana, Mrs. Trump will find a very hospitable people who share a close bond with the United States. The first sub-Saharan country to achieve independence in 1957, Ghana’s first President, Kwame Nkrumah, was also the first African leader to make an official visit to the United States. A major petroleum deposit was recently discovered offshore, and Ghana can look forward to an increase in revenue in the near future.
First Lady Melania Trump’s trip to Africa promises to strengthen intercontinental relations at a crucial time, while more fully articulating this administration’s top policy priorities in Africa. My only regret is the absence of a francophone country on Mrs. Trump’s itinerary. It is important not to give the impression that we are allowing France to have a monopoly on business and culture in their former colonies. Hopefully Mrs. Trump will visit a French-speaking country on her next visit.