Africa: What Trump’s Reelection Could Mean for Africa

The prospect of Donald Trump returning to the White House after the US presidential election in November has some Africans worried about possibly stricter migration policies and less cooperation with the continent.

Former US President Donald Trump has emerged as the Republican front-runner for November’s 2024 US presidential election. On the streets of Ghana’s capital, Accra, opinions vary on whether Trump or President Joe Biden should be the winner.

Ghanaian student Abigail Grift does not want a second Trump term, telling DW that “President Joe Biden is the better choice for this office” after Trump was found guilty of defaming magazine writer E. Jean Carroll.

Grift also cited two impeachment trials ending in Trump’s acquittal as reasons to favor another Biden presidency.

Samuel Ofoso, on the other hand, would be happy if Donald Trump were elected president again.

“Because of his vision for Africa,” he told DW, pointing out that Trump helped with infrastructure projects and political relations between the African continent and the US during his time in office.

Ofoso suggested that Biden is “only pushing the LGBTQ agenda,” which he said was “not a good thing for Africa.”

Biden’s administration has sought to strengthen the rights of people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer in its economic and development cooperation policy.

Concern about Trump’s return

Etse Sikanku, a senior lecturer at Accra’s University of Media, Arts and Communication (UniMAC), told DW, “Africa should be concerned about the possible return of Donald Trump to the presidency.”

Above all, because of the fundamental ideology at the heart of Donald Trump’s policies, Sikanku added. “Because this is someone who believes in isolationism in every respect. He looks more inwards.”

Biden is more global. He stands more for cooperation and partnership. Trump does not favor international cooperation with Africa, said the political analyst.

Sikanku also referred to Trump’s 2018 alleged but widely reported use of the term “shithole countries” to describe some parts of Africa while speaking against immigration from such countries. “He doesn’t treat the continent with respect, undermines democratic ideals … what can you expect?” Sikanku said. Unlike his four predecessors, Trump did not visit the continent once during his one term in office.

Retreat inwards

Sikanku predicts that the USA will withdraw from international affairs under a Trump presidency.

Priyal Singh, an analyst from the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, echoed that sentiment, suggesting that “if Trump won the next election, we would see a kind of reversion back to that earlier period of US foreign policy under Trump, and that is weakening the global multilateral system….”

“This would not be beneficial for many African countries that are disproportionately dependent on the functioning of this very system,” Singh told DW.

However, South African analyst Daniel Silke said that Washington’s focus is on geostrategy and efforts to invest in parts of the continent and strengthen diplomatic ties in Africa would continue — regardless of who wins the White House.

Geostrategic interests

Despite Trump’s “America First” rhetoric, the world is demanding action from the US. The growing influence of China, Russia and other countries will force a [if elected] Trump administration to be less isolationist than many would think, said Silke.

After all, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) — a program launched by former US President Bill Clinton in 2000 that provides eligible countries from Africa with tariff-free access to US markets — continues to carry weight.

The list of AGOA products includes raw materials, textile products and clothing. The trade agreement, extended until 2025, grants tariff relief for imports from more than 30 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the UN Comtrade database, the US was the second most important export destination for goods from South Africa in 2022 after China, with just under 9%.

From a security perspective, Silke argued that the United States remains an essential pillar for many countries in the fight against insurgencies in many African countries, particularly in West and East Africa.

According to Silke, the battle for influence in Africa, the rights to mine minerals, and the expansion of technologies will continue.

“If there is one incentive for Trump to withdraw less and cooperate more with Africa, it is the rising power of China.”

Tough on immigration but soft on climate change

The African continent is geopolitically relevant, said Charles Martin-Shields, a senior researcher from the German Institute of Development and Sustainability (IDOS) in Bonn.

However, Trump is not expected to expand his foreign and development policy. Martin-Shields told DW that Trump would most likely focus on domestic policy and migration, particularly at the Mexican border, and ignore climate change.

This could also have an impact on African countries. Shortly after taking office in 2021, Biden lifted the entry bans issued by Trump from countries with a Muslim-majority population.

According to Martin-Shields, measures against climate change are currently part of the White House’s strategy.

For the first time, according to Martin-Shields, an American president is taking responsibility for the fact that the US and the powerful countries have emitted far more CO2 than the countries in Africa and the equatorial regions. Experts agree that poorer countries are most affected by climate change.

Isaac Kaledzi in Accra contributed to this article

This article has been adapted from German

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