TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

Africa, trumped by bigger priorities

Thursday, 08 December 2016 Published: | Sarah Owermohle

Source: CPI Financial

On 8 November, a long, drawn-out election cycle that spilled across borders and caught eyes across the world finally came to a close—and Donald J. Trump is the next President of the United States.

The result took many by surprise, and not just the pollsters; markets plummeted over the next few hours, with the Dow Jones Industrial average dropping more than 800 points before recovering the next day.

Now that some of the volatility has calmed, there is still deep uncertainty in place. Besides some choice plans for Mexico, Trump has not elaborated much on his overall foreign policy, particularly towards Africa. However a core tenant of his economic view is protective trade policy and domestic focus.

“Africa is likely to slide down the list of foreign policy priorities of a Donald Trump administration,” Peter Vale, Humanities Professor at the University of Johannesburg, said on The Conversation Africa. Vale predicted that Trump would be disinterested not only in government aid or security support, but also continued trade under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

“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,” he said.

Trump’s focus on protectionist policies and domestic infrastructure investment could also mean less interest in continued aid programmes, says David Hornsby, Associate Professor in International Relations & Assistant Dean of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand.

“Love it or hate it, American financial capital is important to African development. In 2015 alone $14 billion poured in [to Africa]. Having less investment coming to African states does not spell good news regardless of how much some believe China pitches in,” Hornsby said.

Overall, with Trump’s outsider status and dedication to breaking the status quo—or ‘draining the swamp’ as he has said—the only thing that is certain is that we know very little about what is to come for Africa or foreign policy as a whole.

As Vale pointed out, “The other break with tradition is that it’s impossible to predict who he will chose as his Assistant Secretary of State for Africa…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,” Vale said.

“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,” he concluded.

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