The twit­ter age and the eco­nomic fall­out

East African Business Week - - EDITORIAL -

The Amer­i­can pres­i­dent elect, Don­ald Trump has al­ways made the news head­lines and he seems to revel in it. Even as a busi­ness­man, Trump courted the me­dia, first with his beauty pageant fran­chise then his re­al­ity show - The Ap­pren­tice. Flam­boy­ant and showy, Trump knows the power of the me­dia and how to make cap­i­tal from the cover­age. Most times, he has po­si­tioned him­self as a tough com­peti­tor and for the most part it has payed off for him. How­ever, in Pol­i­tics, Trump is fast learn­ing that this is an al­to­gether new ball-game and what he could have been for­given for as a pri­vate ci­ti­zen is taken so se­ri­ously as to ap­pear out of pro­por­tion with re­al­ity. As a pri­vate ci­ti­zen, Don­ald Trump could say what­ever he wanted, even jok­ing about grop­ing ladies and he could get away with it. The case be­came very dif­fer­ent when he stood for public of­fice, it be­came ap­par­ent that not every­thing can go your way. The record­ing of his ‘pri­vate’ chat with a me­dia per­son was broad­cast and Trump was in­stantly shown in a bad light. In fact, this sin­gle record­ing nearly cost trump his pres­i­den­tial bid. Fast for­ward, Trump is elected pres­i­dent. How­ever, his pen­chant for re­sort­ing to me­dia out­lets has not been dulled one sin­gle bit and it has in­stead found a good ally in Twit­ter, which, ap­par­ently, is so wide read as to be taken as au­thor­i­ta­tive in de­liv­er­ing of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Twit­ter, for the most part, is re­ally a so­cial me­dia plat­form, just like Face­book and you would think the ma­jor­ity of com­ments are ei­ther made tongue in cheek or just out­right jest­ing and tom­fool­ery. How­ever, re­cently twit­ter seems to have taken on an­other form, that of be­ing the of­fi­cial spokesman of the ac­count holder. It is with this un­der­stand­ing, there­fore, that Trump’s tweets have be­come more and more sig­nif­i­cant and this seems to have be­come the au­then­tic source of his state­ments to the world. Of­course, if his Twit­ter ac­count is hacked, there would be a com­pletely dif­fer­ent sce­nario and this is a tes­ta­ment to Twit­ter’s se­cu­rity that so far there has not been a Tweet that Trump has not ac­knowl­edged as hav­ing been sent by him. So, re­cently Trump tweets his mind about an im­pend­ing move by Toy­ota, borne no doubt from sound eco­nomic con­sid­er­a­tions, to build a plant in Mex­ico. He does not like it and plans to re­tal­i­ate against Toy­ota by levy­ing heavy taxes on them if they go ahead with this plan. Now, Toy­ota seems to have com­mit­ted to the Mex­ico ven­ture and this be­comes a prob­lem to them. As a mat­ter of fact, Toy­ota’s shares drop sharply on the Tokyo stock ex­change and also af­fects other car mak­ers. This, left unchecked, can cause an eco­nomic dif­fi­culty. Ap­par­ently, Gen­eral Mo­tors, a US com­pany, had also planned to build a plant in Mex­ico and a tweet by Trump ap­par­ently changed their mind. Trump has, it seems, har­nessed the power of the me­dia, be it so­cial me­dia, to turn things in his favour! Closer to home, Kenyans have been left scratch­ing their heads at the Tan­za­nia pres­i­dent John Pombe Magu­fuli’s state­ments. He de­clared Tan­za­nia should not im­port from Kenya what they can make lo­cally, brought into place strin­gent work per­mit reg­u­la­tions for Kenyans and then re­duced the amount of elec­tric­ity it buys from Kenya. These state­ments may not have been made on Twit­ter, but their ef­fect can be far reach­ing. The USA and Mex­ico have never had any se­ri­ous eco­nomic or po­lit­i­cal in­te­gra­tion, and the USA has pre­vi­ously ac­cused Mex­ico of not do­ing enough to fight law­less­ness and the drugs trade. Now, Trump has taken it a step fur­ther by threat­en­ing the build­ing of a wall and now does not want to im­port from Mex­ico. The EAC, on the other hand, seems to en­cour­age cross bor­der trade and this should con­tinue in or­der to strengthen in­te­gra­tion

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