Much has been said about Tuesday’s stunning election results that saw U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump becoming the 45th president of the United States. On his way to victory, Trump ran against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, a former U.S. secretary of state and former first lady who enjoyed the overwhelming support of incumbent President Barack Obama. And while Trump was up against opinion molders, global celebrities, and the media, he didn’t even enjoy the support of many members within his own party.
While Trump’s victory is no doubt the stuff of epics, he is hardly anybody’s idea of a hero. In fact, he is the archetypal anti-hero. In Africa — as in many parts of the world where many were clearly rooting for a Clinton victory — Trump in the oval office means a departure from most of the values America espouses to the admiration of the international community of nations.
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While the unlikely and undesirable has happened, come January 2017, Trump will be sworn in as the president of the most powerful country in the world. At Face2Face Africa, we imagine what a Trump presidency could mean for Africa and its people. Here we go:
1. Trade Restrictions
The author of the “Art of the Deal” says he loves to win at all costs. Trump effectively considers all business undertakings as a cumulative zero sum game, ultimately resulting in powerful winners and sorry losers at the end.
He tells his supporters at every turn that previous American governments have done a bad job of negotiating trade deals with other nations and laments on how America has repeatedly been made to lose badly to the other side. Trump particularly promises to revisit America’s NAFTA trade deal with Mexico and Canada, and he has also threatened to block off China’s access to the U.S. market.
Impact on Africa
Trump’s anti-trade rhetoric suggests that he might also “review” or repeal the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA), a program instituted by the Bush administration to support production and lower trade restrictions for the export of goods from African countries in to the very competitive American market. Trade between Africa and America currently stands at about $11.6 billion, with AGOA-enabled non-oil exports accounting for almost $4.1 billion of that amount.
2. Military Assistance
During his election campaign, Trump left many in shock when he declared that if he was elected president, Japan should prepare to offset most or all of the cost of basing about 50,000 U.S. troops on Japanese soil. He later hinted during one of the debates ahead of the Republican primaries that Japan and Korea should go ahead and build up their own nuclear arsenal if necessary to defend themselves from external aggression.
And then at a rally in Pennsylvania, Trump promised to make all NATO member countries pay a “fair share” of the cost of NATO’s military and defense operations, and if they failed to comply, Trump vowed he would see America withhold further defense commitments to any such country.
Impact on Africa
America has a history of armed interventions on the African continent with accompanying mixed results — Somalia and Libya easily come to mind. And the United States continues to maintain a number of strategic military bases in Africa with ground troops stationed on them. America also provides military hardware and tactical support to a number of African countries, such as Egypt and Nigeria. All of this comes at a significant cost to the United States, something president Trump may not take too kindly to.
3. Gay Rights/Abortion
Trump’s cosmopolitan lifestyle as a popular New York reality TV celebrity suggests that he does not exactly hold strong opinions about the pro-life/pro-choice dichotomy neither does he care very much about same-sex relationships and LGBT affairs.
Trump is known to have expressed support for a controversial and unscientific “conversion therapy” that claims to treat LGBT people and change their sexual orientation to fit in with mainstream society’s narrow definition of sexuality.
And during the final presidential debate he had with Clinton, he insisted that babies were “ripped out of the womb” during late-term abortions, causing many pro-choice supporters to say he was inaccurately sensationalizing a practice that was banned by the Supreme Court about a decade ago.
Impact on Africa
Since being named the president-elect, Trump says he plans on reversing many of the nation’s abortion rights, and with Trump being elected on the platform of the Republican party, he can be expected to tow his party’s line on frowning on same-sex marriage. This could mean that America can no longer be counted on to provide a sanctuary, grant asylum, or assist on the rights of LGBT persons in Africa who suffer persecution over their sexual orientation.
4. Dollar Exchange Rate
On this one score, Africa may benefit from a Trump presidency. As the election results rolled in Tuesday night and the electoral college votes stacked up in favor of Trump, financial markets around the world sharply responded with the dollar plunging against the euro and other major international currencies. The dollar rallied to a rebound at the close of markets on Wednesday, but some analysts believe the worst is yet to come.
During his campaign, Trump promised to pursue an isolationist agenda and put an end to what he calls “unfavorable trade deals” against America’s interest. In essence, Trump believes he can create more jobs for Americans simply by raising import duties on foreign goods and blocking American companies from outsourcing parts of their operations overseas. If he does go ahead with his plans, other countries are sure to respond in kind, effectively prompting a trade war that would send shock waves throughout global markets that would hurt the American economy, which clearly benefits the most from globalization, badly.
Impact on Africa
In a worst case scenario, investor confidence in the dollar would erode, forcing sales, and in the end, America could lose its premium credit rating with the dollar falling again. Now a number of African nations (think South Africa, Egypt, and Nigeria) that have recently suffered the consequence of the fall in the value of their local currency can expect a resurgence in the value of their currency against the dollar.
5. Foreign Aid
Africa can expect little or no favors from a man who campaigned to put America first in everything. In addition, Trump’s reputation as a wily, mercantile character suggests that he is unlikely to walk around with a bag of freebies to be handed out on purely altruistic grounds. America’s foreign aid to Africa through the USAID was put at an estimated $12 billion in 2012, and even if that may not seem like a lot against the larger context of expenditures, Trump may institute a number of measures to further cut back on that amount.
Impact on Africa
This may finally wean a number of African states off of their shameful and nearly exclusive dependence on foreign aid, forcing those governments to look inward and cultivate genuine self-development. However, the short term effect of America cutting off its foreign aid assistance would spell dire consequences for a number of aid-dependent African nations, such as Burundi, Malawi, and South Sudan.
A man who built the foundation of his campaign around his promise to build a giant wall (to be paid for by Mexico) across America’s southern border is not expected to take too kindly to the opening of America’s doors to African immigrants. In Trump’s book, it matters little if the immigrant is an asylum seeker trying to escape discrimination, a refugee fleeing war, or a young woman pursuing her dreams.
During his campaign, Trump offered to round up and deport America’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants and promised that he would shut out all Muslim immigrants from terrorist-related countries or subject them to a discriminatory vetting process before they are allowed in to the United States.
Impact on Africa
Nigeria, Kenya, and much of North Africa fall within this category.
Furthermore, Trump has proposed plans to cancel the birthright citizenship rule and end the practice of subsidized tuition for foreign students. Even the Diversity Visa lottery program that guarantees an American green card for lucky winners may be scrapped eventually or suspended in the long run.