How will Don­ald Trump deal with Africa?

Lesotho Times - - Opinion - Peter Vale

AFRICA is likely to slide down the list of for­eign pol­icy pri­or­i­ties of a Don­ald Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. This is be­cause Amer­ica’s for­eign pol­icy is de­ter­mined by both do­mes­tic and for­eign is­sues.

When it comes to do­mes­tic fac­tors Trump is not go­ing to be open to lob­by­ing by the African di­as­pora in the US which has, his­tor­i­cally, al­ways played an im­por­tant role in push­ing African pol­icy and keeping the con­ti­nent on the do­mes­tic agenda. But this con­stituency hasn’t helped Trump at all in this elec­tion so there’s no need for any pay­back. And I think that the kind of vis­i­bil­ity Africa had is also go­ing to fall in so­cial move­ments and so­ci­ety in gen­eral in the US.

Trump is also un­likely to have any tol­er­ance for the idea that the African di­as­pora is part of the “sixth re­gion” of Africa.

The African Union rec­og­nizes peo­ple of African de­cent who live out­side the con­ti­nent as the sixth re­gion, in ad­di­tion to south­ern, eastern, cen­tral, western and north­ern Africa. this isn’t go­ing to be some­thing that is of much con­cern to the new pres­i­dent-elect.

In ad­di­tion, I think that he is go­ing to be in­tol­er­ant and dis­in­ter­ested in is­sues around the do­mes­tic pol­i­tics of African coun­tries. That is un­less — as he was very clear in his ac­cep­tance speech — they strongly im­pinge on Amer­i­can na­tional in­ter­ests.

For ex­am­ple, I don’t think he is go­ing to be very in­ter­ested in what is hap­pen­ing in So­ma­lia or Ethiopia or in other parts of Africa where there may be con­flict. Trump hasn’t got a great ca­pac­ity for de­tail, so at best he will live by macro as­sess­ments.

The other break with tra­di­tion is that it’s im­pos­si­ble to pre­dict who he will chose as his as­sis­tant-sec­re­tary of state for Africa. As a fol­lower of for­eign pol­icy over the past 40 years it has been pos­si­ble, in nearly all in­stances, to know who the new in­cum­bent is likely to be. Ex­am­ples in­clude Ch­ester Crocker, Hank Co­hen and Su­san Rice. Now with Trump, we sim­ply have no in­di­ca­tion.

With this in mind I think it is re­ally im­por­tant for African coun­tries, in­clud­ing South Africa, to be very con­scious, con­struc­tive and con­spic­u­ous in their choices of am­bas­sador. These ap­point­ments will be cru­cial in open­ing the doors to the new Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. The worst that African coun­tries can do, how­ever dif­fi­cult it will be po­lit­i­cally, would be to show their dis­plea­sure and hold their noses.

Se­cu­rity will be a ma­jor is­sue Se­cu­rity is go­ing to be a ma­jor is­sue on Trump’s for­eign pol­icy agenda. This points di­rectly at the US African Com­mand, which was es­tab­lished in 2007. Africom, as it is gen­er­ally known, is one of six of the US De­fence De­part­ment’s “ge­o­graphic com­bat­ant com­mands and is re­spon­si­ble to the Sec­re­tary of De­fence for mil­i­tary re­la­tions with African na­tions, the African Union and African re­gional se­cu­rity or­gan­i­sa­tions”.

When it comes to Amer­i­can pol- icy in Africa, Africom is very likely to emerge as its cen­tral piece. Given Trump’s ex­pressed, bel­liger­ent views on the Mus­lim world, Africom will be set to be the lynchpin. I think African coun­tries should re­sist this be­cause it is cen­tral to Amer­i­can ide­ol­ogy in the world and will bring African coun­tries into con­flict with China. But whether African states will in fact re­sist is a dif­fer­ent is­sue.

In fact, I think one of the is­sues African lead­ers will have to be care­ful about now is how they have to man­age their re­la­tion­ships with China and the US. The US has been a lit­tle bit lack­adaisi­cal in its ap- proach to Africa while China has made great strides on the con­ti­nent. Not all, in my view, bad. The US will in all like­li­hood re­sist the in­roads China has made, an is­sue African lead­ers will have to man­age with kid gloves.

Trade won’t be a given The African Growth and Op­por­tu­nity Act AGOA, which came into ef­fect 16 years ago, is aimed at ex­pand­ing US trade and in­vest­ment with sub-sa­ha­ran Africa. It is sup­posed to “stim­u­late eco­nomic growth, to en­cour­age eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion, and to fa­cil­i­tate sub-sa­ha­ran Africa’s in­te­gra­tion into the global econ­omy”.

There’s still some life left in the act. But it’s clear that Trump is pro­tec­tion­ist. He is not go­ing to tol­er­ate any ex­pan­sion or ex­ten­sion of the agree­ment, or any mis­un­der­stand­ings. This means Amer­i­can trade pol­icy un­der Trump needs to be watched closely.

There is also likely to be a de­cline in aid to Africa from the US. For some African coun­tries aid from the US is ab­so­lutely cru­cial. Take Malawi for ex­am­ple, where it is essen­tial and nec­es­sary. As a busi­ness­man Trump will want some­thing in re­turn and it’s un­likely he will get his sort of re­turns on in­vest­ment from most African coun­tries. His pos­si­ble re­sponse will be that of a re­al­ity show host — eject any er­rant con­tes­tants.

Another fac­tor that will af­fect in­vest­ment is that Trump is go­ing to im­prove Amer­i­can in­fra­struc­ture. I think he is go­ing to bor­row and he is go­ing to use the money to re­build the US be­cause that is his project, to “make Amer­ica great again”. He will most cer­tainly not care if it comes at the ex­pense of aid to or trade with a num­ber African coun­tries.

The next four years prom­ise to test Africa’s place in the world. The lodestars by which we have un­der­stood pol­i­tics such as rightwing, fis­cal con­ser­va­tive, so­cial con­ser­va­tive are all go­ing to be over­turned.

— The Con­ver­sa­tion

Don­ald Trump is go­ing to be in­tol­er­ant and dis­in­ter­ested in is­sues around the do­mes­tic pol­i­tics of african coun­tries, opines the writer.

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