Finding itself unable to reach into the White House, Denmark recently had to seek the help of a former Miss Universe Denmark.
Donald trump, the current occupant of the White House ÔÇô the official residence of the United States president, used to own the Miss Universe. Botswana’s own Mpule Kwelagobe was crowned Miss Universe in 1999. The story about a First World country being unable to establish contact with the Trump White House and having to turn to a beauty queen for help (which was reported on CNN) may be instructive on how to deal with the new US president. Generally, Trump takes no interest in Africa. When the topic of conversation changed to Africa at the recent G20 summit, he left the room and had his daughter, who is his senior adviser, sit in for him. He may not have tweeted about it but Trump has so disengaged from Africa that closing down some embassies on the continent is a real possibility. Six months into his term, he has not filled African diplomatic posts including that of US Ambassador to South Africa. His Secretary of State has yet to appoint an assistant secretary in charge of African affairs, the top post in charge of Africa policy. Africa is the only region without a permanent director at the National Security Council. Trump has focused on security and counter-terrorism efforts in Africa at the expense of a humanitarian and development agenda and has delayed US$640 million in aid that was approved by Congress. His 2018 proposed budget cuts funds to the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) by roughly a third. The budget also reduces funding to the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) by about $1 billion. PEPFAR, which was introduced by George Bush, supports anti-retroviral therapy for over 11 million people, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. The latter should be of particular concern to Botswana which has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world. Trump has also withdrawn the US from the Paris Accords on climate change which, as climatologists predict, will affect Africa so badly that the continent will become inhabitable. The latter will force Africans to flee to warmer parts of the world but Trump is putting in place immigration laws that will make it increasingly difficult for foreigners (especially Third Worlders) to enter the US. Like Denmark, Botswana may find it helpful to mobilise its beauty queens with a Miss Universe past to get Trump to develop interest in issues that matters to it most.