Forget Melania’s outfit: The Trump administration is killing Africa

Tragically, while Africa is the continent which contributes the least to this global deterioration, it is the one suffering the most.

MELANIA TRUMP enjoys a trip to the pyramids (photo credit: REUTERS)
MELANIA TRUMP enjoys a trip to the pyramids
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Did Melania really wear this? Did the First Lady really come in a military-style outfit to Cape Coast Castle in Ghana, where hundreds of thousands of West Africans were kidnapped and sold as slaves in America? How did she dare visit a safari in Kenya wearing that 19th century white helmet from colonial days?
In a subsequent press conference, Melania Trump didn’t want to comment on her fashion choices, but preferred to focus on her initiatives on what the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is doing (despite the brutal 33% cut in the agency’s budget that her husband initiated earlier this year).
Forget Melania’s cliché visits during her five-day tour in four African countries. Forget her outfits and their ugly historical symbolism too. The Trump administration is killing Africa ever since he stepped into office and is committed to do so as long as it’s in power.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned on Monday, October 9 that “unprecedented” changes are needed to prevent the dire impacts of global warming at a rate higher than 1.5C. Without adopting radical new policies, extreme heat, drought, floods and poverty are going to spread much faster. Oceans will become even more acidic and have less oxygen.
The world we live in is today is hotter by one degree centigrade compared with pre-industrial times, but we are already experiencing fires, hurricanes, and an arctic meltdown with rising sea levels threatening entire populations. That is why experts warn that also the 1.5C target will bring more devastation. However, since the world is currently heating up at a rate of 3 degrees, sticking to the commitments made in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change is the absolute minimum to at least give future generations the chance to fight against the reality.
Tragically, while Africa is the continent which contributes the least to this global deterioration, it is the one suffering the most. Seven of the ten countries in the world that are most at risk from climate change are in Africa.
For over two decades, floods are the most common disaster in North Africa and in other parts of the continent from Algeria to Mozambique. Droughts are common especially in the east. Following a sharp drop in rainfall and a rise in pollution, rivers in the Sahel region dry up and fill up with plastic. The glaciers in Mount Kilimanjaro are melting. Endemic species are wiped out, evergreen forests are destroyed, and ecosystems from the savanna to the oceans are disturbed. Since 1998, corals across the western Indian Ocean declined by 35%, and with it the tourism industry in Tanzania and Kenya are heading towards collapse.
Millions of Africans have an almost zero carbon footprint, yet they find themselves in the midst of an infernal heatwave, little clean air to breathe and scarce food and water resources. All this leads to more conflict, social, religious and political extremism, and a surge in migration.
It should be clear that all that suffering is undersigned by the leader of the world’s largest economy, US president Donald Trump. It is no surprise he kept silent about the latest climate change report, which above all hurts Africa’s “s***hole countries,” as he referred to them earlier this year.
In less than two years in office, Trump made the US the only country in the world to leave the Paris Agreement. He appointed the most delirious and greedy climate change deniers to key positions. His America First Energy Plan ignores renewable energy and focuses instead on fossil fuels. His decision to roll back the Obama standards for auto fuel efficiency and emissions means more lung disease and cancer for Africa’s future generations. Every coal miner that Mr. Trump sends back to work is another child in Africa sentenced to misery or death.
So Melania is right. Her outfits just don’t matter, even though they evoke ghosts from Africa’s colonial past. Let us focus instead on the unrestrained, reckless, and short sighted environmental policies of her husband that are killing Africa today.
Tal Harris is a PhD candidate and a Greenpeace volunteer who lives in Dakar, Senegal.