US News & World Report

The streets of Maiduguri in north-east Nigeria

Africa Agenda’s inaugural “Best in Africa Reporting” awards was announced  during the organization’s 2018 Africa Summit on November 2, 2018.

The awards were given, albeit symbolically, to two news organizations judged to have done an excellent job in their reportage of African news in a fair and unbiased way. Read more here.

The second place winner will be revealed on this website soon. For first place the organization picked U.S. News and World Report.

In July 2017 U.S. News and World Report, a recognized leader in American journalism, published a story which portrayed some of the ways the administration of President Donald Trump was said to be “writing off” the African continent.  

The headline from the publication read as follows: ‘America First’ May Put Africa Last

“America First” was an apparent reference to the administration’s supposed nationalistic foreign policy which claims it is putting the United States’ interests above all others as a way to preserve or to enhance its standing in the world.

First – At Africa Agenda we agreed with the assessment that Trump’s “America First” policy already cast the African continent at the bottom of U.S. priorities. The fact of the matter is not whether the continent would become last in global development. Rather it already was less of a priority to the United States after Trump became president. This did not however mean the continent was going to become last just because of U.S. neglect. On the other hand, as we’ve seen, China, and Russia were already filling the gap to the disadvantage of the U.S.

In the many editorials the organization came across while researching this subject some of the writers seemed to be pleading with the administration to engage with the African continent.  The primary concern: China.

While the story from U.S. News was not an editorial stance from the publication, the writer reflected, in many ways, the views of Africa analysts at many U.S. organizations. For example -when I searched for “America First, Africa Last” through the search engine Google, many results popped up. Most of it was critical of the administration’s “America First” foreign policy. 

Second – As a news report the story included critical citations of incidences, reported by other news outlets, during which U.S. officials, including President Trump demonstrated a lack of interest in the African continent. For example: Trump walking out of a July 8, 2017 meeting about the African continent during the G-20 in Germany.

Even more, writer Gaby Galvin wrote:

“The massive continent should not be overlooked, experts say, because how this bloc of countries develops will shape global events in the future. Over the next 35 years, Africa will account for more than half of the world’s population growth, and Nigeria will surpass the U.S. as the third most populous country in the world, according to United Nations estimates. More than 40 percent of sub-Saharan Africa still lives in poverty, presenting its own set of economic, humanitarian and security challenges for both Africa and global players such as the U.S.”

The statement is the display of a skill not many reporters have, know or understand. It’s called journalistic nuance. Very often this nuance, a judgement that may border on style, objectivity, or balance, weighs heavily on a reporters maturity with the news.

“The massive continent should not be overlooked,” the writer states. The African continent was going to have “half the world’s population growth” in the coming decades. And while citing examples of inherent Africa issues, the writer observed, the continent was poverty-stricken and had huge socio-economic challenges.

In other words, Africa has its up and downs, just like many regions of the world, which is a reflection of reality. Not many Africa stories we see have this kind of nuance in them.

Third – The African continent, we find out, was not just a place of poverty as we’ve seen in other Africa stories. In reality, this story gives an indication that its not all “doom and gloom” out there. Which means what? The story tells us there are promises for the African continent, too.

What we saw in this was not just the nuance, but balance and objectivity in the reporting, based on the reporters own statements.

It’s true- others may have written good and perhaps even better stories about the African continent during the time frame we picked. There is no way we could not have picked all of the wonderful stories we came across given the guidelines we set. 

One thing was however particularly striking about this story. Its the encapsulation of the spirit of the moment – a trying – challenging moment for the United States as well as a trying moment for the rest of the world – the presidency of Donald Trump.

A Note about American Nationalism

American nationalism, while not exclusive to foreign policy matters, signals a return to the “dark past,” something U.S. President Donald Trump seems to embrace. The president has not shied away from calling himself a nationalist, whatever that means to him. More on nationalism: It also connotes a return to American isolationism, an approach to policy making that discounts significant input from other countries, more or less, rejecting participation in global affairs. American isolationism, it is believed by historians, was partly responsible for both World War I and World War II.