Trump vic­tory: pos­si­ble im­pli­ca­tions for Africa

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Opinion/worldwide - Ronald Chipaike

THE vic­tory of Don­ald Trump in the race for the White House will go down as the most sur­pris­ing elec­toral up­sets in the USA’s po­lit­i­cal his­tory. Hav­ing been en­dorsed by a few no­table in­di­vid­u­als, or­gan­i­sa­tions and me­dia houses and with public opin­ion polls pre­dict­ing a Clin­ton vic­tory, a few ex­pected the repub­li­can can­di­date to win.

How­ever, on the 8th of Novem­ber Trump won 276 of the Elec­toral Col­lege vote that would take him to the White House.

Trump’s elec­toral cam­paign in the past 18 months was lit­tered with con­tro­ver­sies. His at­tack on the im­mi­gra­tion of es­pe­cially Mus­lims into the USA, his crit­i­cism of US-China trade re­la­tions, his sug­ges­tion that he would build a wall on the US-Mex­i­can bor­der to stem the flow of Mex­i­cans into the USA (which could have cost him the Latino vote) as well as praise of the Rus­sian pres­i­dent/ govern­ment are some of the im­por­tant is­sues that threat­ened to de­rail Trump’s march to the White House.

His al­leged “chau­vin­is­tic” views of women as well as al­leged abuse of fe­male coun­ter­parts were all is­sues that had the po­ten­tial to cost him the pres­i­den­tial seat. How­ever, de­spite th­ese odds, Trump man­aged to lever­age partly on the grow­ing right wing sen­ti­ment in the USA to win the pres­i­den­tial race.

While a lot will be said in the com­ing days and weeks about Trump’s vic­tory, this opin­ion piece seeks to an­a­lyse what a pos­si­ble Trump Africa pol­icy would be like when he starts his term in 2017. It should be ac­knowl­edged at this early stage that Don­ald Trump, at some oc­ca­sions, has shown his neg­a­tive per­cep­tion of Africa.

Dur­ing one of his cam­paign meet­ings in In­di­anapo­lis in 2015, Trump is cited as hav­ing stated that (some) Africans are lazy and are only good at hav­ing sex, eat­ing and theft. He con­tin­ued by stat­ing that most African coun­tries need to be re­colonised again for an­other 100 hun­dred years be­cause they know noth­ing about lead­er­ship and self-gov­er­nance.

Such racist re­marks have been in­ter­preted to mean that Don­ald Trump’s Africa pol­icy will be char­ac­terised by dis­en­gage­ment as well as xeno­pho­bia. But will his Africa pol­icy be guided by such neg­a­tive rhetoric and sen­ti­ments? Is his Africa pol­icy go­ing to be any dif­fer­ent from Obama’s “not so ac­tive en­gage­ment pol­icy”?

My con­vic­tion is that re­alpoli­tik, rather than emo­tional and mis­guided state­ments, is go­ing to play a ma­jor role in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s deal­ing with African is­sues. A few high­lights of US-Africa Pol­icy from 2000 Since 9/11, that is, from the days of Ge­orge Bush ju­nior, the USA’s Africa pol­icy has been premised on fight­ing ter­ror­ism in West and East Africa as well as in the Sa­hel and Maghreb re­gions. This has seen the ac­ti­va­tion of the Africa Com­mand to deal with US for­eign se­cu­rity threats in Africa.

The USA has also played an im­por­tant role as­sist­ing Uganda to fight against Joseph Kony’s Lord Re­sis­tance Army. An­other an­chor of the US for­eign pol­icy, has been the pro­mo­tion of pri­vate sec­tor led eco­nomic growth in dif­fer­ent sub Sa­ha­ran African coun­tries through such “soft power” ini­tia­tives as the Africa Growth and Op­por­tu­nity Act (AGOA)-which was in­tro­duced dur­ing the Bill Clin­ton pres­i­dency, the Mil­len­nium Chal­lenge Cor­po­ra­tion (MCC) as well as the Power Africa ini­tia­tive which has the ob­jec­tive of con­nect­ing a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of African house­holds to elec­tric­ity.

The Africa Growth and Op­por­tu­nity Act was passed by US Congress in 2000 to give el­i­gi­ble sub-Sa­ha­ran African coun­tries ac­cess to the US mar­ket for se­lected prod­ucts duty and quota free sub­ject to an an­nual ap­proval by the US Pres­i­dent. At the mo­ment, 39 African coun­tries, who have been able to ful­fill the el­i­gi­bil­ity con­di­tions for AGOA are ben­e­fit­ing from AGOA mar­ket ac­cess.

The con­di­tions in­clude, among oth­ers, re­spect for the rule of law and up­hold­ing of labour and hu­man rights as well as com­pre­hen­sive poli­cies on com­bat­ing cor­rup­tion. A coun­try seek­ing el­i­gi­bil­ity must also not em­bark on poli­cies or har­bour in­di­vid­u­als and or­gan­i­sa­tions that may harm the US’ eco­nomic and se­cu­rity in­ter­ests. For el­i­gi­ble coun­tries, AGOA ben­e­fits were ex­tended for an­other 10 years in 2015.

An­other el­e­ment of the US’s Africa pol­icy is the Mil­len­nium Chal­lenge Cor­po­ra­tion which was es­tab­lished by the US congress in 2004. The MCC pro­vides de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance for pri­vate sec­tor de­vel­op­ment in Africa, es­pe­cially to those coun­tries that are mak­ing de­lib­er­ate ef­forts to in­vest in their peo­ple and are rul­ing justly.

Through its com­pacts in part­ner coun­tries, the MCC has in­vested $1.5 bil­lion to sup­port “Power Africa” in bring­ing elec­tric­ity to sub Sa­ha­ran African homes. The Power Africa Ini­tia­tive was launched by Pres­i­dent Obama in 2013 and was based on the re­al­i­sa­tion that two out of ev­ery three peo­ple in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa do not have ac­cess to elec­tric­ity. An­other linch­pin of US Africa pol­icy is the Pres­i­dent’s Emer­gence Plan for AIDS Re­lief (PEPFAR) launched by the Bush Ad­min­is­tra­tion around 2003 with the ob­jec­tive of ad­dress­ing the global HIV/Aids pan­demic. In Africa, by 2008, the pro­gramme had en­sured ac­cess to Anti-Retro­vi­ral Treat­ment for 1.2 mil­lion peo­ple.

Lastly, among some of the no­table hall­marks of US-Africa pol­icy was the in­tro­duc­tion by the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion of the US-Africa Com­mand in 2007. The main ob­jec­tives of AFRICOM at its in­cep­tion were to pro­mote US na­tional se­cu­rity in­ter­ests in Africa and its sur­round­ing wa­ters.

This has been done through im­prov­ing African coun­tries de­fence ca­pa­bil­i­ties, es­pe­cially in the face of ter­ror­ist threats in Cen­tral, West, North and East Africa. In this con­nec­tion, Africom be­came an in­stru­ment in Bush’s Global War on Ter­ror­ism which was in­tro­duced soon af­ter the 9/11 at­tacks. Based in Stuttgart, Ger­many, African coun­tries have been he­si­tant to host Africom bas­ing their fears on the pos­si­ble mil­i­tari­sa­tion of Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy in Africa us­ing them as spring­boards. There are also the ob­vi­ous fears of neo­colo­nial and im­pe­rial dom­i­na­tion through Africom. This is what has added to the con­tro­ver­sies sur­round­ing the whole ini­tia­tive and not only Africom’s at­tempt to es­tab­lish a per­ma­nent pres­ence in the con­ti­nent. US-Africa Pol­icy un­der Don­ald Trump While it is dif­fi­cult to prof­fer a com­pre­hen­sive pre­dic­tion of what the US for­eign pol­icy to­wards Africa may in­clude from 2017, a few is­sues can be high­lighted.

An anal­y­sis of US for­eign pol­icy in Africa from 2000 shows that it is mainly the ideas of Ge­orge Bush that have loomed large even un­der Obama’s pres­i­dency. Obama merely ex­tended Ge­orge Bush’s for­eign pol­icy, in­tro­duc­ing a few el­e­ments, among them, the Power Africa ini­tia­tive as well as his in­ten­sive use of drones to tar­get mil­i­tants in So­ma­lia and other parts of the con­ti­nent in the fight against ter­ror­ism.

In­deed Obama has been crit­i­cised for not ac­tively en­gag­ing with Africa as widely ex­pected when he got into of­fice. How­ever, the point that is missed by his crit­ics is that since the end of the cold war, the USA has not been very ac­tive in Africa ow­ing to the fact that the con­ti­nent’s strate­gic value has de­clined. Be­cause of this de­cline, only one is­sue, in my opin­ion, re­mains im­por­tant in US Africa pol­icy.

The ma­jor is­sue, which Obama pri­ori­tised and prob­a­bly will also be pri­ori­tised by Trump is the fight against ter­ror­ism in the con­ti­nent. With the use of un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles, also known as drones, the USA has a smart way (rather than hav­ing boots on the ground) of pre­empt­ing mil­i­tant ac­tiv­i­ties in the con­ti­nent be­fore they be­come ac­tive threats to US in­ter­ests in Africa as well as in the US home­land it­self. Even un­der Trump, I think this ap­proach to­gether with the fund­ing and train­ing of se­lected African mil­i­taries, will con­tinue as part of the US pol­icy in the con­ti­nent.

The other is­sue that could have been im­por­tant, had it not been for the new tech­nolo­gies and new finds/dis­cov­er­ies in the USA, is oil. How­ever, due to the Shale oil boom, US oil im­ports from Africa are down by 90 per cent since 2010. The Shale oil boom has in­creased US pro­duc­tion from 5 mil­lion bar­rels per day in 2008 to more than 8 mil­lion. By 2019, pro­duc­tion is pre­dicted to rise to 9.6 mil­lion bar­rels per day.

Ac­cord­ing to oil ex­perts, al­most all of the new US oil is light sweet crude-which is the same kind US re­finer­ies used to im­port from West Africa. Even Venezuela, which is it­self a ma­jor oil pro­ducer is now im­port­ing oil from the USA. One African state which has been af­fected by this shift is Nige­ria. The coun­try has seen its ex­ports to the US de­cline the most, from more than a mil­lion bar­rels per day in 2011 to about 38 000 as of Fe­bru­ary 2014.

Thus, in the ab­sence of sig­nif­i­cant de­mand for oil from the USA, African oil economies will de­pend more on Chi­nese de­mand for the com­mod­ity as the Asian gi­ant be­came a net oil im­porter in 1993. Con­comi­tantly, we may see a US-Africa pol­icy that is mainly tilted to­wards se­cu­rity and de­fense is­sues com­pared to oil and other com­modi­ties. If oil was (still) a ma­jor fac­tor in the USA’s Africa pol­icy, it might have been the sym­bol of strate­gic com­pe­ti­tion in the con­ti­nent be­tween the USA and China in the Trump era. In that case Africa could have had some sig­nif­i­cance in US pol­icy as well as some agency, as a re­sult.

On the is­sues of hu­man rights, rule of law and fund­ing for hu­man­i­tar­ian crises, the USA may not change its po­si­tion dras­ti­cally, al­though ow­ing to Trump’s iso­la­tion­ist stance, some bud­gets may be re­duced. Such ini­tia­tives such as the MCC, AGOA, PEPFAR and their con­di­tions for el­i­gi­bil­ity (in the case of the MCC AND AGOA) will not be rad­i­cally changed. For coun­tries such as Zim­babwe that have been put un­der sanc­tions for al­leged hu­man rights, elec­tion violence and rig­ging as well as rule of law in­fringe­ments, noth­ing will change. In fact, since the Zim­babwe Democ­racy and Eco­nomic Re­cov­ery Act (ZDERA) was put in place in 2001 un­der the repub­li­can pres­i­dency of the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, no quick changes will be ex­pected from an­other repub­li­can pres­i­dent. In short, Zim­babwe may not be a for­eign pol­icy pri­or­ity for the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Fi­nally, the is­sue of cli­mate change has been top­i­cal and con­cerns have been raised about Trump’s views on Cli­mate Change. He is cited as hav­ing said that Cli­mate Change is not real and that it is a hoax per­pe­trated by the Chi­nese.

He is also cited as hav­ing said even if it ex­isted, Cli­mate Change is not caused by an­thro­pogenic or hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties. As a re­sult he pro­poses the dis­man­tling of the Paris Agree­ment on Cli­mate Change which is viewed as hav­ing reached ma­jor mile­stones on green-house gas emis­sion re­duc­tion com­mit­ments in or­der to re­duce the ef­fects of global warm­ing as well as on fund­ing sup­port com­mit­ments from de­vel­oped coun­tries.

Bas­ing on this rhetoric, it can be pre­dicted that Trump’s pol­icy on Cli­mate Change will neg­a­tively af­fect African coun­tries who are sup­posed to ben­e­fit from fund­ing from de­vel­oped coun­tries for Cli­mate Change adap­ta­tion. How­ever, bas­ing on the ad­vice he is go­ing to get, it is too early to judge on what course of ac­tion the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion will take on the is­sue of Cli­mate Change.

In sum­mary, Trump’s Africa pol­icy is not go­ing to be very dif­fer­ent from Obama’s Africa pol­icy. In fact, as a re­sult of his avowed iso­la­tion­ist stance, it can be said that (mainly) se­cu­rity in­ter­ests will con­tinue as the lead­ing light of US-Africa pol­icy while eco­nomic and hu­man­i­tar­ian is­sues will play a sec­ondary role. In short, Africa will not be a top pri­or­ity for the US in the short to medium term.

Ronald Chipaike teaches in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions at Bin­dura Univer­sity of Sci­ence Ed­u­ca­tion. He re­searches on African agency in in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions as well as Africa’s en­gage­ments with emerg­ing pow­ers.

Don­ald Trump

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