What Just Happened? The Trump Election And What It Means For African Trade

By Dana Sanchez Published: November 9, 2016, 3:59 pm
Donald trump. Photo: AP/US News

When it comes to predicting how President Donald Trump will affect U.S-Africa trade relations, opinions are divided — no surprise in a political victory that relied on a strategy of divide and conquer.

Here are some insights from a variety of sources:

Opinion: election outcome won’t matter for Africa

Robtel Neajai Pailey. Photo: robtelneajaipailey.com

Robtel Neajai Pailey. Photo: robtelneajaipailey.com

The U.S. election will result in few changes for Africa, said Robtel Neajai Pailey, a Liberian activist, academic and author of the anti-corruption children’s book, Gbagba, according to an Al Jazeera report.

Africans know that “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests,” Pailey said. U.S. President Barack Obama has demonstrated that “regardless of a person’s race, gender, or socioeconomic position, U.S. presidents always protect U.S. interests.”

For example, in Liberia, U.S. corporation Firestone has been doing business since the 1920s, she said. Voice of America built a relay station in the 1980s to influence opinions across the continent, and the CIA had a surveillance base there.

Trump will likely keep the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) intact near insecure areas of the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, she added.

Under Trump, the U.S. will continue to promote trade deals like the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which allows African exports duty-free access to U.S. markets, Pailey predicted. Such trade deals are unfair, she said, because they involve “low-value goods and raw natural resources.”

Given his blatant racism, Trump may avoid Africa altogether, Pailey said.

His anti-immigration, anti-women, anti-gay and anti-intellectual approach may encourage ultra-conservative African leaders “to turn their bigotry and repression up a notch.”

His lack of transparency on tax issues shows that “the U.S. lacks the moral authority more than it ever has to lecture Africa on the tenets of ‘good’ governance, transparency, and accountability,” she said.

She said she predicts the U.S. will probably continue supporting African regimes, authoritarian or otherwise, that secure U.S. security and economic interests.

 

Opinion: Trump victory will matter a lot for African allies

 

Trump’s win as president could have severe repercussions for U.S. relations with allies in Africa, said David Thomas, a features writer at African Business Magazine.

Trump’s verbal attacks against minorities may hurt relations with African leaders, Thomas said. Trump was condemned for blaming Minnesota’s Somali community for spreading extremism. His promise to ban Muslim immigrants to the U.S. offended a continent where about 45 percent of people are Muslim.

While campaigning, Trump frequently referred to a “rigged system” that gives money and jobs to other countries at the expense of the U.S. Then in his victory speech, Trump tried to soothe international concerns.

“While we will always put America’s interests first, we will deal fairly with everyone,” he said.

His opposition to multilateral trade deals – which he says are unfair to the U.S. – could endanger the African Growth and Opportunity Act, introduced in the Clinton era. Obama extended AGOA by 10 years in 2015. It is credited with creating around 350,000 African jobs, Thomas said. It resulted in $52.1 billion in U.S. trade with sub-Saharan Africa in 2014.

Trump did not single out AGOA, but he opposes other free trade deals including the North American Free Trade Agreement – signed by Bill Clinton – and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, introduced by Obama:

“Not only does Trump reject free trade but AGOA is a unilateral preference agreement that gives African countries duty free access to the U.S. in return for making progress on economic and political reform. It is hard to see how AGOA is sustained in a Trump administration,” said Witney Schneidman, senior international advisor for Africa at Covington & Burling, who played a leading role in the passage and reauthorization of AGOA.

Opinion: Trump victory will affect the world, but especially Africa

 

What happens on Trump’s watch will affect almost every country in the world, but especially African countries, said Zachary Donnenfeld, an American researcher at African Futures and Innovation with South Africa’s Institute for Security Studies.

It could be worse for Africa because it means Trump, who openly advocates the use of torture, could cut off funding for humanitarian assistance programs. Programs such as the Bush administration’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which was tremendously beneficial, Donnenfeld said.

Obama’s foreign policies had some successes, such as the President’s Malaria Initiative. But they also had failures, including lack of follow-through in Libya after former leader Muammar Gaddafi was removed allowing a power vacuum that destabilized the region, Donnenfeld said.

 

 

 

 

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