Donald Trump attended a United Nations luncheon with African leaders yesterday, and reading from a prepared text, he offered praise for health care progress in some of the continent’s countries.
“We cannot have prosperity if we’re not healthy,” the American president said. “We will continue our partnership on critical health initiatives. Uganda has made incredible strides in the battle against HIV/AIDS. In Guinea and Nigeria, you fought a horrifying Ebola outbreak. Nambia’s health system is increasingly self-sufficient.”
That, of course, struck many as odd, since there is no such country as Nambia. There’s a Zambia, a Gambia, and a Namibia, but no Nambia. (The official White House transcript suggests he was going for Namibia.)
And while that was amusing, it’s also forgivable. I know from experience that it’s easy to flub a word here and there while reading from a prepared text. What was perhaps more interesting was something Trump said a bit earlier in his remarks:
“Africa has tremendous business potential. I have so many friends going to your countries, trying to get rich. I congratulate you. They’re spending a lot of money.”
Watching the video of the president’s comments, it looks like he ad-libbed much of this sentiment, straying from the paper in front of him to say what was on his mind at the time. Trump even said it with a smile, as if he expected those in attendance to enjoy his candor.
And while I wasn’t in the room, there was no audible laughter or applause in response to Trump’s quip, perhaps because the leaders of Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Uganda, who know something about colonialism, aren’t overly impressed by an American billionaire with a troubled history on race boasting about his friends trying to enrich themselves in Africa.
Maybe the line would’ve been better received in Nambia.