In a Trump world, can Africa be great again?

Africa was a policy priority for previous three administrations—Clinton, Bush and Obama. But can US contribute to Africa’s growth story once Trump pushes ‘America First’ agenda?

By Subhojit Goswami
Last Updated: Thursday 22 December 2016
Credit: Ted Eytan/ Flicker
Credit: Ted Eytan/ Flicker Credit: Ted Eytan/ Flicker

Trump's agenda

Africa was equally astonished as everybody else at Donald Trump’s presidential victory. The news confirming his entry into the White House sent a ripple of apprehensions across the continent as he is widely believed to be “oblivious and ignorant about Africa.”

While the US policy towards Africa in the last three US presidential administrations has revolved around peace, security, governance and promotion of opportunity and development, Trump has promised to shift US foreign policy priorities and reshape America’s system of alliances.

So, will Trump allow the US agencies such as USAID to operate with considerable autonomy? Will human rights suffer a setback or will the US be able to steer social and political change in Africa?

Too many questions cloud optimism.

However, the question as to what would Trump mean for Africa gains relevance more because the continent has some serious challenges to confront.

Economic growth in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) has declined sharply since 2012 and currently, about 80 per cent of the LDCs are African. For an emerging market like Africa, which is heavily dependent on commodity exports, the threat of Brexit also came at a least opportune time when intense droughts, population growth, lack of sustainable land and water management practices and conflicts have led to massive population displacements across Africa. It has more countries affected by displacement than any other continent or region.

Continuing drought has not only led to growing water scarcity, but it also has threatened food security Credit: CIAT/ Flicker

On top of that, there’s a fear of global warming and drought stress shortening production time of maize—a staple crop. It will lead to a very short growing season that won’t allow maize plants to fully mature. Be it socio-economic transformation or environmental sustainability, Africa cannot pull itself out of the conundrum on its own, at least with its current capabilities.

When President Obama visited Ghana in June 2009, he had affirmed, “We believe in Africa's potential and promise. We remain committed to Africa's future. We will be strong partners with the African people.” But, Africa is unlikely to be on top of the Trump administration’s policy agenda.

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