Word from Washington: January 2019

Categories: Featured , IGD News


Contributed by Austin R. Cooper, Jr., Director of Government Affairs, IGD.

Much has changed in Washington since publication of the last IGD Word from Washington. On November 3, 2018, Democrats regained control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Over in the Senate, Republicans maintained a majority.

Although committee assignments have not yet been finalized in either the House or Senate Subcommittees on Africa, one significant change is Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) assuming the role of chair. If nothing changes on that particular subcommittee, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) will assume the role of Ranking Member.

According to Chairwoman Bass, “The African continent has long captured international attention, for its cultural and societal diversity, its awe-inspiring landscapes and wildlife as well as for the social and political challenges. Over the last 50 years, the continent has emerged more peaceful and stable than at any time in contemporary history.” Among the new Chairwoman’s priorities are to “transform how we think and engage African nations and to promote trade and economic development between the United States and Africa.”

Today marks the 26th day of the partial shutdown of the federal government. The Trump Administration’s original estimate that the shutdown would subtract 0.1 percentage point from growth every two weeks has now doubled to a 0.1 percentage subtraction every week. According to Steve Liesman, a senior economic reporter for CNBC, “The change is due to greater losses from private contractors also out of work and other government functions that have been halted.” Liesman added, “The Administration’s estimate is more aggressive than some forecasts from Wall Street economists.”

“The circumstances that have brought a government shutdown raise concerns that U.S. political dysfunction now poses the biggest threat to national security,” says Richard N. Haas, President of the Council on Foreign Relations. Continues Haas, “The shutdown, combined with other recent events, also stirs questions about American predictability and reliability, which are qualities that are vital to a great power. The United States, vital for advancing policy initiatives from trade to sanctions, is now an unreliable partner.”

The current shutdown is now officially the longest in U.S. history, Moreover, there is no end in sight as negotiations at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue remain at a standstill over the President’s demand for border wall funding of $5.6 billion. Meanwhile, 800,000 federal workers are going without pay and federal agencies, such as the FDA, State Department and USAID, are forced to cut back on crucial duties.

In mid-December 2018, the Trump Administration also unveiled its new strategy for Africa. In remarks delivered at the Heritage Foundation, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton announced a new approach of engaging African development. This new approach included accusing China of “predatory practices” on the continent. According to The Diplomat, the country was mentioned no fewer than 17 times, which included references to Chinese “sins” in Africa and a declaration that the “overriding target of the U.S. strategy is to counter Chinese influence across the continent.”