In Ethiopia, Ivanka Trump spreads message of women’s empowerment

By Catherine Lucey | AP

Far from the din of Washington, Ivanka Trump toured businesses run by women in Ethiopia on Sunday while promoting a White House global economic program for women.

President Donald Trump’s daughter and senior adviser visited a coffee shop and textile company in Addis Ababa. It was her first stop in Africa on a four-day trip to Ethiopia and Ivory Coast on behalf of a White House project intended to boost 50 million women in developing countries by 2025.

Aiming to offer assistance and learn about the struggles of women in business, she took part in a traditional coffee ceremony, visited with weavers and announced new financial support for businesses.

“Investing in women is smart development policy and it’s smart business,” Trump said, sitting in Dumerso Coffee, a dimly lighted space with a woven ceiling, tile floor and colorful paintings. Alongside were women who work in the industry. “It’s also in our security interest, because women, when we’re empowered, foster peace and stability,” she said.

This is Ivanka Trump’s first visit to Africa since the president launched the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative. It’s a program she hopes will outlast an administration better known for “America First” isolationism.

She has drawn praise for taking on this project and for making the trip. But thousands of miles from Washington, she is sure to be shadowed by her father’s efforts to cut international aid, as well as his past disparaging comments about Africa.

Ivanka Trump arrived in Ethiopia early Sunday, flying commercial.

She first visited the coffee shop and then went to the textile and craft manufacturer Muya, where she was greeted by dancers and chatted with women seated at colorful looms. She took a seat at one herself. She also noted that she was in the country with Africa’s second-highest population.

“Ethiopia’s success is Africa’s success,” she said. “We learned today that the quality of the coffee is second to none. You shared with me that Ethiopian cotton rivals cotton anywhere in the world. And then of course the skills and the craftsmanship of the Ethiopian people. We hope more people realize their full potential.”

Ivanka Trump was accompanied by Mark Green, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, and David Bohigian, the acting president of the Overseas Private Investment Corp., which provides loans, loan guarantees and political risk insurance, funding projects that stretch across continents and industries. OPIC, working with Ivanka Trump, last year announced a project geared at women.

At the coffee shop they announced a loan, issued by a local women-focused bank and backed by USAID, for a coffee business owned by women. At Muya, they announced additional OPIC financing.

The new global women’s initiative involves the U.S. State Department, the U.S. National Security Council and other American agencies. It aims to assist women in developing countries with job training, financial support and legal or regulatory reforms.

Money for the effort will come through USAID, which initially set up a $50 million fund using dollars already budgeted. The president’s 2020 budget proposal requests an additional $100 million for the initiative, which will also be supported by programs across the government as well as private investment.

Experts praised the government-wide approach, which will incorporate new and existing programs, though some stressed that it was early in the process. The investment comes as the president is proposing cuts to foreign aid, and as the administration is expanding a ban on U.S. aid to groups that promote or provide abortions.

“The part of the proposal which is around looking at laws — that is a good thing to focus on,” said Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, referencing the initiative’s support for changing laws, regulations and customs that create barriers preventing women from fully participating in the workforce.

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