The first lady of the United States, Melania Trump has this week travelled to Africa for the very first time. She is visiting Ghana, Malawi, Kenya and Egypt in 5 days with a mission to promote the welfare of children, to draw attention to the humanitarian and development work of the US government and to draw focus on tourism and conservation efforts. In the run up to the trip, Mrs Trump expressed that she was looking forward to visiting “four beautiful and very different countries in Africa.” By embarking a solo trip, Melania Trump is following in the footsteps of previous first ladies including Pat Nixon, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush who were all promoting international development causes and initiatives.
This trip is a promotion of Melania Trump’s “Be Best” campaign in partnership with USAID that focuses on key issues facing children including cyberbullying and opioid abuse by parents. Mrs Trump believes that it is the responsibility of adults to educate and support children to enable them to speak up with respect and compassion either verbally or online.
One may question why she has travelled to Africa considering her husband’s constant criticism of African states and his goal to cut off foreign aid in order to put America first. Ahead of her trip, Donald Trump expressed that he and his wife both love Africa because it is very beautiful. This is directly at odds with the views and comments he has made in the past. In February for example, he used the term “shithole” to refer to African states when he spoke about immigration policy. When it comes to foreign policy, Donald Trump has paid no attention to the continent but has welcomed leaders from Kenya, Nigeria and Egypt.
Although there has been little reaction from the public in Ghana, Mrs Trumps first stop, she received a warm welcome at the airport. A BBC journalist in Accra the Ghanaian capital, expressed that it was just like a normal day. Others have given mixed reactions. Some view Melania as inspiring while others feel she is uninspiring especially when compared to Michelle Obama.
A visit to a hospital in Accra with the Ghanaian first lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo set the tone for Melania Trumps Africa visit. During the visit, she observed babies being weighed as part of a USAID funded project that is promoting nutrition in children. Away from Washington, some have noted how she opens up and shines in her own way. She has been seen smiling, has so far expressed excitement and her goal as she has said is to learn more about children in these countries.
Amid the conflicting messages of Donald Trump and Melania Trumps visit to Africa, experts are wondering how effective this trip to will be. Melania, through her visit is ignoring the elephant in the room which is often her husband. Her human rights centred approach that has seen her visit Africa and in June saw her visit the Mexico border is often overshadowed by her husband’s words, actions and the attention these garner. Melania Trump, is often viewed as being more compassionate than her husband. Through this trip, perhaps Mrs Trump can shine a more empathetic side to the current US administration. A side that demonstrates that the US cares about the rest of the world.
Featured image | Melania Trump | Disney ABC Television Group | flickr
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.
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