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What a Trump Presidency May Mean for Africa

Updated on January 31, 2017

Donald Trump has taken charge as the 45th president of the United States of America. What his presidency means for American policy regarding Africa is a question on many people's minds, especially on the continent.

Africa will probably be low on the list of foreign policy priorities of a Trump administration, as it probably is on his mind.

Goodbye AGOA?

Trump has already withdrawn America from the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal and wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he says is the worst deal in the world, to better suit American business.

Trump has said that he wants to renegotiate trade deals which he sees as one sided. This means that the African Growth and Opportunities Act is also facing uncertain times. AGOA was signed into law in 2000 and offers incentives for African countries to open their economies and build free markets. In 2013, AGOA imports into the US totaled $26.8 billion. The trade deal promotes African imports to the US without simultaneaously promoting US exports to Africa, which has contributed to the trade deficit that Donald Trump has criticized repeatedly.

For African economies which are already experiencing a downturn, this is bad news. Even worse is if he decides to pick a trade war with China, which will drive the aggregate demand for commodities even further down.

He has not said anything about AGOA yet, but his protectionist stance may imply that we should not expect any expansions and extensions.

A More Volatile War on Terror

How international security and conflict under a Trump administration will be handled is probably the most worrying aspect of his administration.

Barack Obama expanded the U.S African Command and increased the use of drones to fight terrorist organizations.

Boko Haram has caused destruction, death and chaos in Nigerian and other parts of West Africa
Boko Haram has caused destruction, death and chaos in Nigerian and other parts of West Africa

Trump's rhetoric towards Muslims may play a role in recruitment of extremist fighters. The continent has been affected by Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab and other terror groups.

His promise of hardline tactics in the War on Terror may spell trouble as studies have shown that abuses committed against civilians are likely to push people towards terrorist organizations.

The Al-Shabaab already has terror cells in the US, in places like Minnesota, which has a large Somali population.

Is this good news for like of Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram?

A Sharp Decrease in Foreign Aid

Love it or hate, foreign aid plays a crucial part in Africa's development. In 2014, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) had $10 billion worth of commitments in sub-Saharan Africa alone. This is just one of the platforms that the U.S provides support to Africa. The other programs include the State Department, the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Department of Agriculture.

The United States gives more aid than any other country in the world, twice that of the next country. And with Donald Trump not being a fan of foreign aid, we might expect to see major cuts in America's extensive aid program. This could adversely affect funding used to develop healthcare, education, Non-Governmental Organizations and business across Africa.

In a past interview with the Washington Post, Trump stated that his presidency will focus more on internal programs rather than overseas aid. “We have no money for education because we can’t build in our own country,” he said. “And at what point do you say hey, we have to take care of ourselves. So, you know, I know the outer world exists and I’ll be very cognizant of that but at the same time, our country is disintegrating, large sections of it, especially in the inner cities."

For many African countries, Rwanda for instance (where almost half of the budget comes from foreign aid), aid from the US is absolutely crucial, and a cutback will severely affect them.

For Trump, the United States is his project. He has his own idea of how things should work. He will borrow, invest a lot in the country's infrastructure and will probably care less if this will come at the expense of foreign aid.

Tougher Immigration Laws

Donald Trump's immigration policies are already underway, and the world is crying foul. His Executive orders barring Muslim refugees from entering the United States is already in place. Among the countries directly affected, Somalia is one of them. Africa has a sizable number of Muslims: about 30% of sub-Saharan Africans, 50% of Nigeria's population and a majority of North Africans.

Sudan, Eritrea and Congo have consistently produced among the highest numbers of refugees to the U.S. Increased scrutiny of potential of refugees will affect these African populations.

Besides refugees who are escaping political, gender and social abuse, there has also been an increase in the number of African-born immigrants to the US in recent years. There are 1,830,000 African-born immigrants living in the US in 2013, up from 881,000 in 2000. Africans are the majority of those entering the country through the diversity visa program. Curtailing the flow of migrants will have an effect on things such things as remittances to the continent, which rose to $35.2 billion in 2015.

Africans countries already charge US citizens more to obtain visas as a way of retaliating against the perceived inequality of the United States' immigration system. Such policies are likely to increase tension and strain diplomatic relations between African countries and the United States.

U.S Africa Summit
U.S Africa Summit

Speaking of Diplomatic relations, the African Union recognizes people of African descent living in other parts of the world as the sixth region of Africa. Trump is unlikely to tolerate the idea of the African diaspora having a say on domestic and international issues that affect the continent. Its not like they contributed to his win. He will also be largely be disinterested in the issues around domestic politics of African countries unless they strongly affect American national interests.

Donald Trump's plan is to turn the US inward both politically and economically. Many of his economic and political policies are protectionist and will have an effect on the rest of the world.

A Donald Trump's presidency is no longer a dream (or should I say nightmare), it is now a reality. Many of his economic and political policies are protectionist and will have an effect on the rest of the world. How much effect they will have on Africa is what remains to be seen.

There is every possibility that Africa is not Trump's priority and African countries should therefore look at this as an opportunity to craft their own destinies.

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