Dear President-elect Trump,
I know there is a lot on your plate over the next couple months, but I wanted to bring your attention to a pressing issue that might not make it to the top of your radar during your transition: Africa. Some would argue that Africa shouldn’t be at the top of your list when it comes to priorities, but I beg to differ. If you are committed to taking on China and averting their ability to “eat our lunch,” then we should be concerned with their dominance in Africa and the impact they may have on our future hegemonic power.
During the month of November, I had the great privilege of visiting a couple of countries in Southern Africa. That trip opened my eyes to the impact that China is having on the continent. Chinese foreign direct investment in Africa has skyrocketed from $7 billion in 2008 to $26 billion in 2013, according to figures cited by the Wharton Africa Business Forum. But to be honest, those numbers don’t tell the entire story. I found a dominance of Chinese expats, Chinese-run businesses, and sky-scraping Chinese hotels littering the skyline of every major city I visited.
Africa presents a huge business opportunity to China’s ballooning populations. Not only does the continent provide an abundance of resources necessary for the Chinese economy to grow, but they also provide China with something else stronger than money: global influence. Investing in Africa—a continent ravished by colonialism, civil war, and poverty—gives China the ability to gain new allies and assert power on a continent that has all but been neglected by the developed world.
The only thing that stands in the way of Chinese dominance in Africa is the United States and the work that we have done through the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). In 2004, President Bush created PEPFAR with the goal of addressing the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, improving health outcomes, and helping to save the lives of those suffering from the disease in resource-limited countries. Renewed by President Obama in 2008, PEPFAR has increased the number of Africans receiving treatment and other resources from 50,000 in 2004 to more than 56.7 million in 2014. In many cases, PEPFAR benefits have enriched economic outcomes, and coupled with other USAID and UN programs, have led to greater economic stability in the continent.
What makes this initiative so successful is its ability to create sustainable country programs for tackling the AIDS epidemic, rather than just depending on previous emergency response programs. PEPFAR has allowed the US to aid its partnering countries in developing country-owned and country-driven initiatives, creating a collective impact at the country level while also increasing collaboration amongst multilateral organizations.
Since its creation, PEPFAR has directly supported life-saving treatments for millions of men, women, and children, including HIV testing and counseling for more than 11 million pregnant women in 2012 alone. The program’s work has also provided care for approximately 750,000 pregnant, HIV-positive women, resulting in the birth of over 250,000 HIV-free infants.
PEPFAR’s success is dependent on the efficiency of collaboration with its partnering organizations as the program expands its impact and improves its methods. These partnerships include a variety of governmental agencies such as the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the Departments of Labor and Commerce.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot more work to be done to stabilize many of the poverty stricken countries in Africa, but PEPFAR and the hard working American diplomats and aid workers implementing it have had an enormous impact on the lives of South Africans and Mozambicans (two of the nation’s visited on my tour of Southern Africa), as well as Africans throughout the continent.
When asked about PEPFAR, you stated, “Yes, I believe so strongly in that, and we’re going to the lead the way.” And now I am asking for you not to waver in your commitment. If PEPFAR is eliminated the people of Africa will suffer beyond belief. And beyond that, we will hand over our influence in Africa to the Chinese, a move that we as a nation might never recover from.
If we want to compete with China, then we must take them on in every way possible. That means we must compete with them by increasing our aid and foreign direct investment in Africa. By bolstering our influence in Africa, we would counterbalance much of the influence currently being peddled by the Chinese.
Mr. Trump, China is hurting our workers, our jobs, and our economic future. As you work to reign them in, I urge you to see our work in Africa as part of that strategy. By increasing aid to Africa, we can curtail the Chinese, significantly benefit the health of the global community, and fulfill our ethical obligation to help those in need in the international community.
Richard A. Fowler
Host of radio’s nationally syndicated The Richard Fowler Show, Democratic Messaging Expert, Fox News Contributor and Millennial Engagement Specialist, Richard Fowler is an advocate for youth and social policy reform. Currently, Richard works with teachers, nurses, and higher education faculty to make sure their voices matters in the decision-making process taking place in city halls, state capitols, and our nation’s Capital. The Richard Fowler Show can be heard in over 9.1 million homes internationally and is a partner in the TYT Network, a multi-channel network on YouTube specializing in political talk shows.