If there is any president of any powerful country who has made their distaste for Africa open, it is America's president Donald Trump. Since assuming power, he has not set foot in Africa yet, and he is very blunt as regards his disapproval of the whole continent.
He infamously referred to African countries as "shithole" countries. It sparked a lot of rage, but he just seemed not to care about the fuss of it all. He once dismissed Nigerians as "hut-dwellers" and once mentioned Namibia as "Nambia." And you know, no African country is called "Nambia". Despite all of this, Donald Trump is very popular in Africa.
Donald Trump is more popular in Africa than in any other region, according to a 25-nation survey by Pew, a pollster, as cited by The Economist. The figures clearly show a good rating for Trump from the perspective of Africans. According to the research, some 59% of Nigerians and 56% of Kenyans believe Trump has a positive influence on world affairs.
South Africans are not as enthusiastic with Trump. Only 39% express their confidence in Trump, but still, it's 12 percentage points higher than the global median. These are favourable figures for Donald Trump, coming from Africa, despite his apparent dislike for the continent.
At any point, Trump is less popular than Barack Obama, whose father was Kenyan. But what makes Africans like a president who shows no regard for them, who throws around derogatory terms whenever he feels like, just to feed his egotistical whims, and who thinks "Nambia" is a country?
Ignorance could play a part. Another pollster, Ipso, found that 38% of Kenyans could not name the American president. So, how can you resent someone you have not heard of yet?
America's influence in global culture is of immense proportions. Africans like the United States of America. And perhaps, this could explain why some Africans are fond of Donald Trump. Nigerians, Kenyans and South Africans are twice as likely to hold pro-American views as the average German. Africans like all things American. "Black Panther" is trending in Africa. Hip-Hop is also trendy in Africa. Talk about fast-food joints too.
But then again, is this only the reason why Africans are willing to tolerate Trump, and to like him? Here's what Trevor Noah, a South African comedian, said in 2015, "As an African, there’s just something familiar about Trump that makes me feel at home." So somewhere in there, Africans resonate with Trump's character and behaviour, they relate to that. Trevor Noah made note of how Mr Trump boasts about his wealth, power and that his brains are similar to those of the late Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin.
On a continent that has been inundated with over-bearing and bombastic presidents, there is something in Donald Trump that Africans find familiar. The outward expression of strength. "Somali parents like to name their sons after powerful men," says Saddam Hussein Adani, a logistician from Mogadishu. "If Trump were a Muslim, I’m sure you would have a few baby Donalds today."
Then, there is also the issue of USA vs China in controlling the world. For some Kenyans, a world that is controlled by the United States is better than that controlled by China. And so for this, the only reasonable thing is to show unwavering support for Donald Trump. They praise Trump for standing up to China.
Perhaps someone informed Trump about the harshness of his impolite and crude remarks towards Africa, and of late, he has tried to adopt a conciliatory tone. "Africa is so beautiful," he gushed ahead of his wife Melania’s recent tour of the continent.
But Africans are aware that this is not Trump. They prefer the real, blunt Donald Trump who expresses what is exactly on his mind whether you like it or not. They know the conciliatory tone is just for public relations.
No insincere flattery. "He’s only saying what the others think," says Willie Wekesa, a truck driver, glancing away from the American wrestling show on the television behind him. "At least he’s honest about it."
Header image credit: The Economist