Trump’s Africa: Africa- U.S relations in Trump’s Era

Perspective
Tuesday, 15 November 2016 372 Views 0 Comments
Trump’s Africa: Africa- U.S relations in Trump’s Era

 

For a continent regarded as the cradle of mankind, it’s troubling to know how little is known about it worldwide. Take for example, Americans who view places stereotypically based on what they see on media.  Africa has been continuously portrayed as a warring, impoverished, savage ‘nation’. These are horrible stereotypes. Africa is immensely diverse and is the fastest-growing continent in the world.

So, when Americans confuse Morgan Freeman with Nelson Mandela or question Ghanaian Kwame if he knows their friend Swaleh from Tanzania, it would be easy to understand the angst brought about by Donald Trump’s win from the just concluded US Presidential Election. The racist, sexist reality TV celebrity turned President-elect has proven to know very little about foreign policy and what’s more he isn’t concerned with Africa. In April 2016, Trump made his debut speech touching on foreign policy where he outlined his future policy plans. Africa was not once mentioned.

Trump’s opinions on Africa have never been complimentary and he expresses this rather brashly through popular social media platform, Twitter.  He has been on record tweeting about how dangerous South Africa “is a crime ridden mess that is just waiting to explode” during the xenophobic attacks the country faced.  These are the sort of antics that most notably thrust him into national politics over 5 years ago, when he stated that President Barak Obama was born in Kenya thus birthing a movement to discredit the President’s origins making him ineligible to hold the oval office.

Throughout his bid to 1600 Pennsylvania, Trump has categorically stated that he will run America just as his business empire which was front and centre of his campaign. Let’s be real, Trump is at best a mediocre business man with a history of questionable business acumen and you can’t approach government operations in a sole business-like manner. Ask Lee Iacocca. And certainly, Countries and Governments are not Corporations.

Trump wants to “Make America Great Again” and “put America’s interest first” but at what price? He has spoken largely over international trade deals disadvantageous to America and emphasized America’s need to spend more money at home and less overseas, more so on foreign aid.

Since as early as 2004, the US has spent more than $70 billion on Africa through the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR), a multibillion dollar initiative concentrating on health reform and progressively developed gender equality and children’s rights since its establishment during the first term of the Bush administration.

 

“…Africa is immensely diverse and is the fastest-growing continent in the world…”

 

Likewise, The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has for over 15 years designed to give African countries easier entry to US markets through duty free access of goods and currently boasts over 39 African nations in active trade. This proves to be vital revenue streams for chicken farmers in South Africa or to the textile industry in Kenya. Non-oil exports from Africa to the US under the backing of AGOA have reached over $4.1 billion, which makes it an economic lifeline for the continent. The trade agreement however expires in 2025 and its renewal will be now be hinged on how the Trump administration handles its negotiations during his tenure.

Closer to home, USAID and Kenya’s significant partnership with the government, private sector and civil society has led to the development of advance access to education, improved quality healthcare, led to long term economic growth and strengthening democracy and governance in Kenya.

Could a reduction in foreign aid have a major impact particularly in Africa?

Absolutely. America’s extensive aid program is likely to suffer significant cuts with expected dip in infrastructure and healthcare programs along with civil societies and NGO’s that rely on this aid.

But how does a foreign policy oriented Trump Administration stack up against the legacy left behind by President Obama?

Well, for starters, with the Obama administration, the son of Kogelo faced strategic, political, and economic challenges during his first term when he inherited a crippling economy post Bush era which strained his relationship with Africa. Africa didn’t enjoy the administration’s considerable time and devotion. It was during this time Africa was courted aggressively by China who overtook America as Africa’s prime trading partner. Private and Public partnerships were forged such as in Kenya, primarily boosting her infrastructure with flagship projects such as the Standard Gauge Railway under the Jubilee administration. Nevertheless, his track record ended up far better than he started picking up during his second term.

Obama gets it. Rhetorically, he understood Africa given his background much better than any of his predecessors yet he received severe budget constraints compared to Bush JR.  who enjoyed congressional assistance such as with PEPFAR that enjoyed broad bipartisan congressional support. Obama boldly implemented his appealing transformative agenda leaning heavily on promoting entrepreneurship and trade under his tenure with the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, the Power Africa initiative to deliver electricity to millions, YALE scholarship program for young leaders and hosted 40 African heads of state and government in 2014 announcing billions of dollars in financing to promote U.S. corporate interests in Africa in a bid to offset China’s dominance in the region and repositioning America as an international power house just to name a few.

While all this provides a glaring difference between Trump and Obama, security has been a major concern between both camps with both agreeing on the need to increase military spending. Both similarly agree that ground troops need to be deployed to fight Islamic State militant group (ISIS). In relation to Africa, a vacuum in authority post Gadaffi after American intervention in Libya has been attributed to the growth of militia with allegiance to ISIS. The ISIS-aligned Nigerian militant group Boko Haram continues to unleash terror and havoc in Nigeria and Niger, and Al-Qaeda-linked Somali terror group Al-Shabab continues to make worrying power move advances in Somalia. A radical and islamophobic approach as promised under a Trump presidency to Islam and Muslims won’t help as this has proven to be an effective recruitment tool for terrorist organizations thereby fanning the flames. This kind of terrorism has shown the capacity to destabilize African countries and become an export commodity worldwide particularly in America and Europe.

The U.S. will be compelled to engage on these terror threats through US African Command known as AFRICOM established in 2007 is one of six of the US Defence Department’s combatant commands geographically responsible to the Secretary of Defence for military relations with African nations, the African Union and African regional security organizations.

What is certain of a Trump presidency is the uncertainty in what his administrations will and will not do come January 2017. Predicting his policy agenda is volatile. The President-elect will have to reconcile a lot of his comments said during the campaign trail for the sake of US interests and objectives and he is already backtracking on a number of his campaign pledges. For all we know, Donald Trump might just have pulled off the greatest scam of the century.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeptum Kiptanui

Jeptum is an Alumna of The Catholic University of Eastern Africa and an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya. She is currently a litigator at a Nairobi law firm with a focus on civil, commercial, constitutional and criminal law. When not using law as a vehicle for social change, she is disarmingly good fun, with a blooming lust for life and everything in it.

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