By Brendon J. Cannon
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates
Uncertainty is about the only thing states and leaders can count on with the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.
Yet if the attitudes and intentions of Trump and his cadre are unclear regarding NATO or China, they are less murky when it comes to sub-Saharan Africa. Though Trump rarely mentions the continent, the calculations of Trump and his cadre are increasingly clear.
He does not like Africa, looks at the continent as a bother and will cut foreign aid across the board. What does this mean for Africa and will a retreat of U.S. interest, primarily in the form of aid, necessarily be negative for Africa and Africans?
Journalists and analysts who have attempted to predict the contours of Africa’s relationship with Trump have sounded
They point to a strong U.S. presence in Africa  under two previous administrations, highlighting President Barack Obama’s Power Africa, Feed the Future and Global Health Initiative, as well as President George W. Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, both of which were reportedly widely-praised on the continent.
Journalists and others also point to the reliance of many sub-Saharan African governments on aid.
Ethiopia is a case in point. According to a 2013 Oakland Institute report , Ethiopia tops the worldwide list of countries receiving aid from the U.S., the U.K.
While some money is funneled into increased agricultural output or higher education, much of it ends up lining the pockets of Ethiopia’s elite.
Or, as is so often the case with aid, the fault lies with the major government aid organizations such as USAID or the U.K.’s Department for International Development, which shell out money without oversight or any sense of direction.
In one case, development aid provided £5.2 million in funds for an Ethiopian girl pop band  in 2016. This would be laughable if the same “mistake” had not been made in 2014 when the "Ethiopian Spice Girls" received £4 million.
The case for continued U.S. or other country-driven aid funneled through a plethora of NGOs operating from New York, London,
Ethiopia regularly tops the list of growing economies not only in
Power to Africa?
And what we see in Ethiopia mirrors FDI attraction,
Not only is the state able to function fully, develop key projects and attract record FDI when it wants to, it intrudes effectively into the lives of its citizens. For example, vigorous tax collection regimes in Kenya and other East African states -- though still falling short of targets -- efficiently collected record tax figures in 2016. 
What does all this mean?
First, when the Trump administration cuts aid to Africa it will not be the end of the world. As the cases of Ethiopia and Kenya demonstrate, Africa does not need so much aid.
Second, the U.S. does not provide that much aid, and certainly not in a manner that alleviates the continent’s ills. Yes, $12 billion in official development assistance in 2012, for example, is huge. But this represents less than one percent  of the U.S. federal budget.
Additionally, and more importantly, where the money goes and how it is spent is critical to understanding why a cut in aid will not be the end of Africa.
They argue, albeit from different data sets and standpoints, that foreign aid inhibits economic and political growth in Africa more than anything else. As Moyo noted: “For Africa to grow in a sustained way, foreign aid will have to be dramatically reduced over time, forcing countries to adopt more transparent strategies to finance development.”
Instead of assisting growth, aid from the U.S. and others fuels
Instead of an array of services such as health and education, most citizens of sub-Saharan African states suffer under regimes that offer poor services run by meddlesome bureaucrats and never-ending red tape. No wonder aid groups and consultancies constantly call for “capacity building” measures and training as a panacea.
Yet calls for capacity building and development ultimately undergird a rotten two-way street between donors and recipients.
The downside of aid
Africa’s array of corrupt tenders and contracts as well as endless rounds of capacity-building conferences and training sessions represent the sinkhole of all the aid money -- the money that was supposed to help the subsistence farmer in Niger or educate that child in Angola.
You only need to enter “capacity-building in Africa” in Google to see that this is big business inside and outside Africa.
Rather than alleviating poverty or assisting in
For the NGO or aid organizations to keep the funding stream flowing (and keep their jobs), they need to fund and occasionally develop a particular project in Mozambique, for example. For this, they require local partners and buy-in from the Mozambique government. Little oversight is required, reports are written and the funds for the project disappear. The project, if begun at all, often withers.
However, the bureaucrats at various ministries in Maputo received funds for their “oversight” and buy-in, the aid organization received its money and can point to a viable project -- at least on paper -- in Mozambique. In this upside down world where aid money goes to those with the least need (in-country elites and an army of expat aid “experts” and consultants),
So what about all those major initiatives to help Africa under previous U.S. administrations?
With the possible exception of Bush’s PEPFAR, the others simply recycled much of the money by awarding contracts worth billions of dollars  (think of Haiti, Afghanistan, Iraq) to U.S. companies and NGOs for work that was either unnecessary or remains undone.
Take Obama’s Power Africa initiative. It is commonly asserted that Africa needs more power  to meet rising demand and fuel economies. Yet this narrative largely rests on false assumptions and has proliferated through the constant demands of aid organizations and consultancies in the West -- as well as African governments -- intent on reaping profits from a new, multi-million dollar project that takes a “one size fits all” approach  to a complex problem that is often region- or country-specific.
So what will the fallout be from Trump’s ignorance about and ignoring of Africa?
African elites, U.S.
The positive upshot of Trump’s cathartic cuts could be that the U.S. finally begins to engage individual African states politically and economically in the same way it engages other states -- based on mutual interests and strategic aims.
This will be a welcome change to the current engagement between much of the world and Africa, one driven by milquetoast aid initiatives or corruption-fuelling capacity-building programs that only line pockets and protect minority interests inside and outside Africa.
[Brendon J. Cannon is assistant professor at Khalifa University’s Institute of International and Civil Security, Abu Dhabi.]
* Opinions expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Anadolu Agency's editorial policy.