“Africa is a continent of tremendous, tremendous potential and is growing very very fast economically and many other ways. You have done a terrific job, you are facing tremendous obstacles placing you back but you have done a really absolutely incredible job…” the words of Donald Trump when he met a group of eight African leaders in September 2017.
Trump will, however, go down as the first United States president in recent times to not step foot in Africa during his time in the White House. His first meeting with an African leader was with Egypt’s Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in Washington in April 2017.
Trump also attracted the ire of Africa and Africans with some of his pronouncements, especially the infamous “shithole continent,” which he flatly denied.
This piece looks at how the Trump presidency specifically interfaced with Ghana as a country. From meetings between the two leaders, Trump linked visits and social media “face offs” thrown from Accra towards DC.
Trump meets Akufo-Addo, others on sidelines of 2017 UNGA
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo was part of a group of African leaders that met with Donald Trump in September 2017. At the meeting over lunch, Trump laid out a brief of his administration’s plans for Africa.
Other guests included leaders of Ivory Coast, Senegal, South Africa, Ethiopia, Namibia – which Trump mispronounced as Nambia, - Nigeria, Uganda and Guinea. President Conde was also in attendance by virtue of being the then President of the African Union.
October 2018: Melania meets Rebecca in Accra, visits Cape Coast
A year on, the most significant Trump engagement with Ghana will take place with Melania Trump’s Africa tour – her first solo visit on wings of her Be Best foundation took her to Kenya, Malawi, Ghana and Egypt – in that order.
“Our country’s great First Lady, Melania, is doing really well in Africa. The people love her, and she loves them! It is a beautiful thing to see,” Trump said in a tweet at the time.
During her two-day visit, the First Lady visited a medical facility – the Greater Accra Regional Hospital together with First Lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo and also toured a former slave castle in Cape Coast meeting with traditional leaders.
She held separate talks with Mrs. Akufo-Addo and interfaced with staff of the United States embassy in Accra during her time. She flew to Egypt which was her final stop before returning to Washington.
January 2018: Shithole remarks clap back
January 13, 2018; president Akufo-Addo via Twitter responded to Trump’s infamous shithole comment. The tweet came after the claim was widely reported and despite categorical denials by Trump.
Akufo-Addo was not the only African leader to hit back at Trump. The president of Equatorial Guinea, Theodore Obiang Nguema, in an interview with French broadcaster described Trump as racist.
The language of @realDonaldTrump that the African continent, Haiti and El Salvador are “shithole countries” is extremely unfortunate. We are certainly not a “shithole country”. We will not accept such insults, even from a leader of a friendly country, no matter how powerful.— Nana Akufo-Addo (@NAkufoAddo) January 13, 2018
October 2020: Akufo-Addo condoles with Trumps over COVID infection
Fast forward to October last year, Akufo-Addo and Rebecca sent warm words to the Trumps, after the White House confirmed that the first couple had contracted coronavirus.
The tweet came at a time when #EndSars protests were raging in Nigeria. Where predominantly young citizens were calling for scrapping of a rogue police unit, SARS. Days later, Akufo-Addo tweeted calling for calm and an amicable resolution to the crisis.
In November 2020, president Akufo-Addo tweeted congratulations at Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The two had defeated Trump in keenly watched polls. In perhaps the White House’s final statement on Ghana, Trump announced a delegation to attend the January 7, 2021 inauguration of Akufo-Addo for a second term in office.
The full statement was as follows:
President Donald J. Trump today announced the designation of a Presidential Delegation to attend the second Inauguration of His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana, on Thursday, January 7, 2021, in Accra, Ghana.
The Honorable Dr. J. Peter Pham, Ambassador, United States Special Envoy for the Sahel Region of Africa, will lead the delegation.
Member of the Presidential Delegation: The Honorable Stephanie S. Sullivan, United States Ambassador to the Republic of Ghana
With respect to the Biden administration whose mandate kick started yesterday, president Akufo-Addo has yet to issue an official statement welcoming the new president into office.
The second part will look at policy clashes between the two capitals, deportations and visa restrictions and the military base deal that triggered protests in parts of the country.
On behalf of the Government and people of Ghana, I extend my warmest congratulations to the President-Elect of the United States of America, Vice President @JoeBiden, on his decisive victory in the elections of 3rd November 2020. 1/4 pic.twitter.com/qIWFjzYg9D— Nana Akufo-Addo (@NAkufoAddo) November 7, 2020