Analysis: Does team Trump have an Africa plan?

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US diplomacy can play a useful role in Africa, but nobody in the State Department is picking up the

When Kenya's top court annulled last month's presidential election results, Donald Trump's mind was elsewhere. The US president was tweeting about stock market growth and his old political nemesis, Hillary Clinton. 

In fairness, the billionaire has a lot on his plate at the moment - from Hurricane Harvey's devastation trail to North Korea's nuclear arms test. But, as is often noted, sub-Saharan Africa struggles to place high on the global agenda.

Nearly eight months into his presidency, Trump has yet to nominate an Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. Other jobs lower down in the State Department, Pentagon and White House are vacant; there is no US ambassador in either South Africa or Congo.

READ MORE: Under Trump, Zimbabwe might be off the radar 

Officials and experts told Al Jazeera that an inattentive US made violent flare-ups in South Sudan, Burundi, and other hotspots more likely, while giving China space to capitalise on sub-Saharan Africa's economic growth at Washington's expense.

"The problem isn't that Africa isn't a front-burner issue in the White House, that is only the case in exceptional circumstances," Vanda Felbab-Brown, a researcher with the Brookings Institution think-tank, told Al Jazeera.

"It's that the competent, highly skilled bureaucracy has been made totally dysfunctional by so many positions not being confirmed," she said.

After Kenya's Supreme Court scrapped that country's election results on September 1, a statesmanlike phone call from the West Wing could have put the brakes on any sabre-rattling from President Uhuru Kenyatta or his opponent, Raila Odinga, she said.

"It was a massive and unprecedented decision by the court and, right or wrong, it's made a volatile situation in Kenya even worse. It's a moment like this that you really want high-level officers calling from the White House, and that's not necessarily happening," Felbab-Brown said.

Africa is home to 1.2 billion people in 54 diverse countries, but also some of the world's most protracted conflicts in Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congoand elsewhere. Two areas are particularly worrisome to policymakers right now.

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Article Analysis: Does team Trump have an Africa plan? compiled by Original article here

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