International relations are shaped by people as well as policies. Under President Obama, about 70 percent of ambassadors were career diplomats, and in Africa all were, with two exceptions: South Africa and Tanzania. Similarly, the Assistant Secretary of State for Africa is a career foreign service officer. All ambassadors submit a letter of resignation on inauguration day; past practice is that those from career officers are not accepted. Some from “political appointees” may be, and most are when there is a change in party. A president can appoint anyone he likes as an ambassador, so long as the proposed appointee is an American citizen, can survive the security clearance process, and wins Senate confirmation. So, should he choose to do so, President Trump could change wholesale the personnel that shape and conduct U.S. policy toward Africa. This, however, is unlikely, given that a new administration will have a very full plate. At least for a year or two, the Africa policy of the new administration is likely to be characterized by continuity. But, then the election results along with Brexit show the limitations of prediction. It also remains to be seen how Africa’s leadership will respond to a Trump administration.
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