By Alex Hitzemann
Last week Trump took his first foreign tour which gave us some small glimpses into how the Trump administration will interact with Africa in the coming years. With an American first agenda and a proposed new budget that will slash American aid spending in Africa in 2018, it’s easy to see why Africans feel neglected by America’s new domestically focused president. But will Africa continue to remain low on the agenda?
As an investor, businessman, and now politician Trump is not ignorant of the enormous potential Africa presents for those willing to forge partnerships in the continent. He must also realize a lack of Western leadership in Africa opens the door for other countries, especially China, to further penetrate Africa with its unique style of politics and business.
In his first few weeks, Trump called President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria and Jacob Zuma of South Africa. Last week during the G7 summit Trump rubbed shoulders with Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, Guinea’s President Alpha Conde, Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou, and Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi.
For Secretary of State Rex Tillerson the US’s main priority in Africa is security. Insuring that Africa does not become the next breeding ground for terrorism is currently the Trump administration’s primary objective in Africa.
However, while speaking with U.S. Department of State Employees, Tillerson recently revealed he’s optimistic and sees huge potential.
Tillerson explained, “Africa is a continent of enormous opportunity, and needs and will get and will continue to receive our attention to support stabilizing governments as they are emerging and continuing to develop their own institutional capacity, but also looking at Africa for potential economic and trading opportunities. It’s a huge, I think, potential sitting out there, waiting for us to capture it, and then, obviously, a big focus of our health initiatives, because Africa still struggles with huge health challenges. And those are important to us and they’re going to continue to get our attention.”
“I think there’s huge potential sitting out there, waiting for us to capture it, and then, obviously, a big focus will be our health initiatives” -Tillerson
Slashing donations and aid to Africa might also backfire on the President’s anti-terror initiative. “Where you cannot create economic opportunities, in these rural areas all across Africa where agriculture ought to be working will simply become a recruiting field for terrorists. I’m sure that’s not in the interests of the United States nor any other country,” Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, told Newsweek Magazine this week.
“Cash from Washington plays a vital role in creating jobs in rural parts of Africa, where young people may otherwise turn to extremism when faced with unemployment and poverty due to environmental issues or conflict,” Adesina continues.
An article published by African Utility Week interviewed the head of natural resources at Exotix Partners in the UK, Andrew Moorfield, he said there is so much emotion in talks about Trump that he would rather focus on the “knowns” which are the markets. In Moorfield’s analysis there is some possible good news for African economies.
Moorfield referred to the low rate environment in the US. He said the last 12 months shows a post-Trump bump, but it is now falling again. According to him US rates is expected to remain low in the medium term with some consequences for Africa. This situation, he says, “creates a favourable and stable climate for African investment”.
“The US dollar has been weakening since January, consistent with Trump’s stated preferences threatening foreign investor returns through continuing depreciation,” he explained.
It is common cause that one of Trump’s key plans is to invest in US infrastructure and this, Moorfield projects, will buoy commodity demand generally which will benefit African economies as demand for oil, gas minerals and metals will grow.
According to him Africa has lots of natural resources but is low on capital. “So if Trump executes his plan and invests in infrastructure the effect should be that it would buoy commodities and will benefit African economies.”
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Andrew Moorfield interview by Alicestine October
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