Since Donald Trump launched his campaign for the US presidential election, which he eventually won, he has never stopped provoking controversy. We even tend to forget the facts to focus on the words when we review the relations between the United States and Africa under the Trump era.
Cheikh Ibrahima Diong
CEO, Africa Consulting & Trading
The legacy of the Obama administration should first be addressed. Beyond the excitement of his election around the world, Obama consistently provided a message of hope and virtue throughout his mandate. The progress made by his administration in the US-Africa relationship is worth-mentioning, especially in the areas of security, energy (with the Power Africa initiative), trade (mainly through the African Growth and opportunity Act, AGOA) and Leadership (YALI). Obama showed his commitment to contribute to the development of US-Africa trade relations by hosting the 2014 African Leaders Summit in Washington DC. In retrospect, Obama left a positive legacy that should continue to flourish even under a new regime.
However, it seems that, with almost a year of campaign to review all possibilities, African countries (and even the rest of the world) were still unable to anticipate the outcome and consequences of the 2016 election. Many of them were surprised by the victory of Donald J. Trump.
Donald Trump has an emotional side that is transparent in his way of perceiving the world, how it works and how it communicates. At his age, it is useless to try to make the slightest change. The 45th American president is a businessman. So far, it has not yet clearly defined his intentions towards the African continent. However, Donald Trump supports fair trade and so far has not made the decision to repeal AGOA. Trump certainly calls for nationalism, first to protect American companies around the world. Thus, this could eventually lead to US investment in Africa.
His comment about African countries and Haiti has sparked reactions from all corners of the world causing a great wave of anger and indignation. However, the problem raised by Trump, which really needs to be addressed first, is what are the new ways for Africa to develop profitable and sustainable partnerships abroad? Clearly, this seems much more attractive than waiting for a regime change in another part of the world that would radically change the opportunities available to us and our potential partnerships. The main objective of the African continent now should be to work towards building equitable and balanced partnerships around the world. We should seek sustainable and fruitful bilateral partnerships for both parties involved, not only with the United States, France or other developed countries but also in other parts of the world, including emerging countries such as China, Turkey…
After asking ourselves this question, we must determine what matters most to our continent. Africa needs better leadership, greater transparency, greater Africanism, balanced development of human capital and, above all, rebranding our continent by improving the image given to the rest of the world. The picture that will have to be painted is that of a continent aware of its potential and focusing on them to reach the stage of advanced development.
Today, more than ever, it’s the perfect time for us to start taking control of the destiny of our continent rather than depending on any change in direction in another part of the world to determine whether we are moving forward. We should focus on other things instead of reacting to the words of a narrow-minded man who is very likely to commit many blunders. Beyond Trump, we should ask ourselves what kind of leadership we want in our countries. Today, the Africans should focus on rebranding the image of their continent rather than being caught in the endless cycle of reacting to what others are saying about us. We live in a globalized world where partnership is about to preserve the interest of one’s nation first and foremost to ensure one’s own sustainability.
Africa is at the crossroads of the world and the crossroads is currently developing. What Africa needs most is leadership; what Africa needs most is to ensure that our natural resources contribute to the development of our continent; what Africa needs most is that no African country should be left behind on the path of development; what Africa needs most is that its leaders place the interests of their nation ahead of their own; what Africa needs most is to provide funding to all these young talents across the continent to enable them to thrive and thus contribute to their countries’ growth. These should be our priorities.
Actually, we cannot change Donald Trump or his opinions; it is as it is, and its mandate does not end before 2021.
In the end, our continent is often described as the continent of opportunities. In this respect, the question that matters here is not why Trump said what he said but rather what we’re going to do about it. This requires that we ask ourselves a few questions: what do we need? Where do we find the resources to meet these needs? Then we can focus on developing the right sustainable strategies to support those needs