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Trump, the anti-Obama

Staecker Claus Kommentarbild App
Claus Stäcker
November 14, 2016

Africa expects nothing good from the US President-elect Donald Trump - quite the reverse, writes DW's Claus Stäcker.

Tansania US Wahlen PR Aktion
Image: Getty Images/AFP/D. Hayduk

So far, Africa has barely existed for Donald Trump. When it has, it has only ever been in a negative context. Nigeria's Nobel Prize winner for literature, Wole Soyinka, has said he's so aghast that he will tear up his green card on January 20 and return to his homeland.

Trump has made his first two key personnel appointments - GOP chief Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff and Stephen Bannon as chief strategist and senior counselor - but the rest of his future administration remains shrouded in mystery.   

The president-elect has fanned fears and stirred up negative emotions, but on concrete issues such as security and the fight against terrorism the future US president has been known to position himself on opposing sides, often within the same speech. If Trump's muddled statements can be considered to be a program, it reads like a 10-point plan for the degradation of Africa.

Claus Stäcker
DW's Claus Stäcker

1) African companies must expect to pay import duties on goods entering the US. Until now, almost 5,000 African products from 38 countries are exported to the US duty-free under the AGOA trade agreement (African Growth and Opportunity Act.)

2) Africa's fragile civil society will be significantly weakened if its American sponsors, who have so far been very active, curtail their support or withdraw it altogether.

3) The focus on "America First" means, conversely, that Washington will not be focusing on African autocrats. These will then be able to go on ruling with impunity.

4) Minorities, especially Africa's LGBT community, are losing the support of the country that is probably their most important global ally.

5) Moderate Muslims will come under even more pressure from their radicalized co-religionists if the new US president continues to vilify Muslims across the board.

6) The security situation on the front lines with Islamist terrorist militias in West and East Africa could deteriorate if the use of drones is extended, leading to further radicalization.

7) A change of course on climate policy would be a huge setback for Africa, which has been proven to be the continent most affected by climate change.

8) Africa's health sector - starting with George W. Bush's presidential AIDS program PEPFAR - fears the loss of billions of dollars of donations, which in recent years have brought about significant improvements in basic healthcare and research.

9) The fate of Barack Obama's ambitious energy program "Power Africa" lies in the balance.

10) The American dream is coming to an abrupt end for hundreds of thousands of Africans who hoped to study in the United States. Both the estimated $35 billion (32 billion euros) a year transferred home by the African diaspora and the educational input of researchers and experts of African origin are under threat.

No wonder that autocrats like Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), Pierre Nkurunziza (Burundi) or Paul Kagame (Rwanda) were among the first to congratulate Trump. They hope that they will no longer be constantly publicly reminded of their official duties and constitutional oaths, as they were by Barack Obama. Obama's background and his authentic rhetoric created almost messianic expectations all across Africa - expectations he couldn't even begin to fulfill, blocked as he often was by the House of Representatives. Ultimately, even his Republican predecessor George W. Bush achieved more in Africa than the African-American Barack Obama.

Trump, however, is the anti-Obama. He can't wriggle out of every global agreement, however much he blusters. He can't cancel every program and every trade agreement without damaging the US economy. Nonetheless, Africa will probably find itself battling against a strong headwind, and it will have less influence in the UN, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Trading disadvantages, the reduction of development aid, global disinterest: The continent has reacted with astonishing calm and diplomacy, and with considerable online humor, to the unexpected political upheaval.

On the African scale of experience, nothing is so bad that it's couldn't be worse. However, The American political shift, which may soon be followed by a European one, could accelerate African self-reflection. Bring on domestic, inter-African trade, get rid of customs duties and limitations on movement - bring on a homegrown value system. This is something the African Union has been postulating for years, but its members states have so far put hardly any of it into practice.

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