By MK Ngoyo*
Africa barely got a mention in the US presidential election. This is good. If Trump succeeds in purging the factions that advocate war, interventionism and imperialism from the US government he will have done all that he needs to do for Africa. We can ask no more than to be left alone by the world hegemon.
Prof Patrick Bond in his piece in Pambazuka News last week gives an interesting perspective on the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency. His article has inspired me to give my own quite different perspective.
How Donald Trump will govern is by no means certain at this point. However, on the basis of the speeches and interviews he has given since his election, there is no reason to conclude that the sky has fallen. In fact his election may prove to be a tremendous opportunity for Africa.
Trump is clearly neither a neoliberal nor a neoconservative. His position on cooperation and good relations with Russia shows him to be a noninterventionist. That is to say he is not an imperialist. The problem for Africa in its relations with the USA is not that the US intervenes too little in African affairs, but rather that it intervenes too much. If the US turns towards isolationism this will allow Africa a golden opportunity to increase and intensify its engagement with Asia, particularly China, but also with India, South America and Russia, free from American interference.
At the same time, because Trump is neither neoliberal nor neoconservative, it is unlikely that his appointments to the world’s multilateral institutions will come from the ranks of those factions. Besides if Trump is true to his promise to cooperate with other countries and in particular Russia, such cooperation will undoubtedly impact his choices for top posts in those organizations such as the World Bank where the US vote is determinative.
On the issue of climate change Trump is clearly not a true believer. Therefore we can indeed expect that his administration will push this issue to the back burner. Still there is no reason to panic. Other nations can take up unilateral and multilateral remedies without the US. It should also be pointed out that the predictions of the climate catastrophe camp are by no means certainties. Predictions of conditions in Africa in the year 2100 are rank speculation, as is the claim that such conditions will be affected by the actions of the US president today. It is hazardous enough to attempt to predict conditions ten years hence, let alone 80 years from now.
Africa barely rated a mention in the US presidential election campaign. This is good. If Africa is not a priority for the new US president, the continent is likely to be left alone. If Trump succeeds in purging the factions that advocate war, interventionism and imperialism from the US government he will have done all that he needs to do for Africa. We can ask no more than to be left alone by the world hegemon.
In Trump the once seemingly inexorable march of the army of free trade and globalization, more correctly called Americanization, that has trampled countries, cultures and communities without a backward glance, may have finally met a force capable of stopping it. If Trump can put a stop to the TTIP and TTP he will have done Africa and the world a signal service.
Donald Trump repeatedly promised to “put America First”. The phrase “America First” hearkens back to the America First Committee that sought to prevent US entry into World War Two. The phrase has a thoroughly isolationist pedigree in American politics, referring also to the isolationist America First political party. It is by no means certain that Trump will succeed in imposing isolationism on the extremely powerful imperialist/neoliberal/neoconservative factions of the American elite. But in pulling off this most improbable election victory, Trump has shown that he is a winner and it would be most unwise to count on his failing.
Perhaps what most disturbed African opinion about Trump was the racism, bigotry and misogyny that lay just beneath the surface of much of his campaign rhetoric. Two things can be said about this. First, the rhetoric has completely disappeared since he won the presidency. Two, this is largely an internal matter for the United States. His treatment of immigrants, documented or undocumented, and of Blacks and the Gay community will be moderated both by American law, which has come quite far along the road towards justice (not far enough though), but more importantly by the push back from the progressive movement. A major domestic benefit for the US arising from Trump’s election will be reinvigoration of the Progressive Movement, which has been almost completely neutered under Obama. This, nonetheless, remains an issue primarily for Americans. From an African perspective it is much better for Africa to be a good home for Africans than for America to be a good refuge for them.
Finally, we must remember that at the present time, probably nobody but President-Elect Trump knows what he intends to do in the coming year. All the foregoing must be taken in that spirit. Trump may surprise us by departing from the tradition of American hegemonistic practice. If so, his will be a truly beneficial presidency for Africa.
* MK Ngoyo is an independent contributor living in the United States. He tweets as @mkngoyo and can be reached at [email protected].