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US Elections

Africa's cautious welcome for Trump

Many Africans fear that US policy could change under the Trump administration. But some think less US involvement on the continent could actually be a good idea.

Ethiopian university lecturer Yakob Arsano went to the US embassy in Addis Ababa to watch the final stages of the presidential race. But even Arsano, an expert in international relations, struggled to explain whether the election of Donald Trump means any change of US policy towards Africa.

"America is an established political system, which cannot be swayed by an individual president," he told a Deutsche Welle correspondent at the embassy. "But the president is powerful and very influential. He can try to influence his people and the nation."

Like Arsano, Africans across the continent were left wondering Wednesday what to expect from Donald Trump, who campaigned on a ticket of putting "America's interests first" in global, political and economic cooperation.

Africa 'not a priority for Trump'

"For him, Africa is not a priority at all," says Kenyan political analyst Naftali Mwaura. "We are talking of a man who has touted protectionalism as the defining theme of his campaign. If he pursues this protectionist line, Africa is going to suffer."

A US shift to more protectionism could mean the end for several US programs for Africa, especially the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The scheme - introduced by Hillary Clinton's husband Bill during his tenure as US president- gives preferential access to exports from selected African countries to the US.

Several men standing in front of shacks, holding American flags

When Obama won, excitement was high in Africa

An American withdrawal from the international scene could also mean the end of US military cooperation with countries such as Nigeria, Niger or Kenya that are battling Islamist insurgencies.

But there are also some Africans who think their continent could actually benefit if the US takes a back seat in the future.

Positive effects from US withdrawal?

"I look forward to the US cutting aid to Africa," Liberian student Tecee Boley told a DW correspondent in the capital Monrovia.

"We have received high amounts of donor funds. But we have not seen any tangible results that we can point to as what she [Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf] has done with the money," Boley said.

Africa's political elite stayed clear of any criticism of Trump in their congratulatory messages. Instead, most leaders emphasized the need for continuity in US-Africa relations.

South Africa's president Jacob Zuma wrote on his Twitter account that he "was looking forward to work with President-elect Donald Trump to built on the strong relations that exist between South Africa and the USA."

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta said that the ties between his country and the United States would also remain strong under the Trump administration. 

"They are old and based in the values that we hold dear: in democracy, in the rule of law, and in the equality of peoples. These values remain dear to the peoples of both nations, and so our friendship will endure," Kenyatta said in a statement.

Uhuru Kenyatta smiling and shaking hands with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kenya's president Uhuru Kenyatta (seen here with Secretary of State John Kerry) hopes that ties with the US will remain strong

Trump received a cautious welcome from many Twitter and Facebook users across the continent. DW's Kiswahili page had notched up more than 500 comments just 15 minutes after he was declared the winner. But the tone largely remained cordial and low-key, a far cry from the excitement that followed Barack Obama's victory in 2008. Many Africans then thought that Obama - the son of a Kenyan father - would give more priority to Africa than his predecessors had done. 

Taking the election on a light note

"It is the right decision. May God help him accomplish his mission," Rabiyyu Gidan Madi from Nigeria's northern Sokoto state wrote on DW's Hausa page.

Some social media users also took Donald Trump's election on a light note.

They compared him to South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, who's fighting increasing public resistance over corruption allegations and incompetence.

Others started to hold celebrities to account who had threatened to give up their residency in the United States if Trump were to become the next president. One of them is Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka. Nigerian Twitter user Marchbanks Arthur wrote: "Our celebration will now be at Abeokuta where Wole Soyinka will tear his green card," 

 

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