In the latest episode of the Donald Trump administration’s tough immigration policies, the US government has denied visas to over 100 African delegates attending a trade summit.
Voice of America reported that the delegates, many of them government officials and business leaders, were denied a chance to enter America to meet their counterparts in what an organiser termed discrimination against African nations.
"I have to say that most of us feel it's a discrimination issue with the African nations...We experience it over and over and over, and the people being rejected are legitimate business people with ties to the continent," said Mary Flowers, who chairs the African Global Economic and Development Summit.
This year's summit started on March 16, 2017 and ended two days later. The summit, organised by The University of Southern California, was meant to promote bilateral foreign direct investment, international trade, cultural exchange and tourism with the 54 individual countries in Africa.
It was the first time that the event went on without Africans, organisers said. The Trump administration is progressively tightening its immigration policies and slamming doors on foreigners. The American government has introduced visa bans for citizens from six Muslim countries.
Kenya Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman Kiprono Kittony expressed disgust, saying: "If the reports are true, then this is something that we would like to condemn in the strongest terms possible."
Social media users, reacting to the VOA report, were equally disappointed. "Why not hold the summit in Ghana, Ethiopia or South Africa? I am sure that The University of Southern California can partner with African institutions to organise it....bring us some much needed revenue. The weather is great here," said one social media user.
Another one replied: "Because the point is to get Africans to meet with business leaders and government officials who are not easy to reach. If the first step was for them to travel to Africa they would never go on this trip!"
"This kind of idiotic travel ban is just the beginning of the sharp decline of the American soft power the Trump administration is heading to. In a couple of years, US officials and businesses alike will complain that other global players such as China will have replaced them on the fastest growing continent on earth..." yet another added.
Countries whose delegations were affected included Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia and South Africa.
Reports indicated the delegates are said to have been called for visa interviews a few days before their travel date though they had applied several weeks before.
"Usually we get 40 per cent that get rejected but the others come," said Flowers. "This year it was 100 per cent. Every delegation."
VOA reported that one of those denied a visa was Prince Kojo Hilton, a Ghanaian artist, whose work includes special effects and graphic art. He paid his Sh51,500 ($500) fee to attend the event and was asked to lead a session on filmmaking.