When the EastAfrican went to press on Friday night, the sun was setting over US President Donald Trump’s hopes for a second term in the oval office, as officials across the Great Lakes took stock of what a change of guard means in Washington DC for the region.
After a stronger-than-expected performance on election day, President Trump set course for re-election, a flood of ballot papers in key states Joseph R. Biden Jr. allowed to use the incumbent.
Whoever wins the White House will influence the lives of East Africans and influence the policies in the member states of the East African community. The first to be affected are East Africans who live in the United States or want to travel there.
A victory for President Trump could lead to an expansion of restrictions on asylum seekers and stricter rules on visa applications, which could reduce the number of East Africans joining the American diaspora, or the billions of dollars they spend each year paid into the house. A Biden government will not necessarily remove all the restrictions imposed by Trump, but it will probably not be expanded or tightened.
Policymakers in East Africa will be keeping a close eye on changes in trade, security and democracy. Earlier this year, the United States and Kenya negotiated a free trade agreement (FTA), which is likely to continue regardless of the outcome of the White House race.
“We do not want to lose this momentum with the FTA. It has the potential to deprive this relationship between Kenya and the US of what was previously dominated by trade aid,” said Kyle McCarter, US Ambassador to Kenya, in a statement. media interview last week in Nairobi. “There are people who are looking at $ 16 billion in investment under the FTA agreement. That’s good for the country. I can not predict what Biden will do.”
While Trump prefers bilateral negotiations in which the US exercises its power to get better terms, a Biden government may prefer a more multilateral approach, which could turn trade negotiations around in the East African community.
Like Obama earlier, the Trump administration upheld the Bush-era African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) that allows tax- and quota-free exports of eligible countries to the U.S., but in 2018, Trump Rwanda of Agoa suspended in a dispute over East Africa. country’s ban on the import of second-hand clothes.
The suspension has only affected about three percent of Rwanda’s exports to the US, but it indicates a tighter negotiating position from Washington that is likely to continue if he somehow jumps back into office. The EAC has agreed to ban the import of second-hand clothes by 2019, although other countries will still follow Rwanda’s lead in implementing the decision.
In particular, a government in Biden is expected to promote ‘conflict minerals’ regulations that President Trump has suspended by executive order, claiming that they are detrimental to the growth of industrial and technological enterprises.
The Dodd-Frank Act, signed by President Obama in 2010, requires all listed companies to report annually on whether they use tin, tantalum and tantalite minerals from the DRC or its adjacent neighbors. The law was aimed at preventing the illegal sale of minerals from the Great Lakes region, which incites violence and exploitation.
Governments in the region will pay attention to the signals about shifts in Washington’s foreign policy in the region. Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya have benefited from military alliances with the US Department of Defense in exchange for fighting the extremist group Shabaab in Somalia.
Yet U.S. policy under Trump was volatile. He recently called for the withdrawal of US troops from Somalia, where they support the fight against the Shabaab, but also drew an unlikely rapprochement between Sudan and Israel, removing the former from the list of state sponsors for terrorism, in exchange for payment. of compensation.
While U.S. voters are tired of endless wars abroad, neither of the two candidates will be eager to deploy more troops, though Biden is less likely to arbitrarily close the mission in Somalia as Trump threatened. U.S. policy on Somalia and terrorism in the region is likely to be shaped by the Pentagon, rather than the State Department, and largely maintain the status quo.
What remains unclear is whether a Biden government will be more outspoken about democracy in the region.
After four dramatic years of the Make America Great Again era, many in East Africa and elsewhere will see Trump’s departure as the end of a mistake.