By now, the world knows that the US presidential election will be highly dominated by the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and billionaire Donald Trump who will possibly play with Democrats and Republicans cards respectively.
Of the two candidates, not much can be said of Trump as a leader, because he has no political experience. But when it comes to matters controversy, Trump has it all. If he is not discussing how the US will build a wall on the border with Mexico to cut the flow of illegal immigrants from Latin America, he is campaigning for limiting the number of Muslims allowed into the country.
Trump, who is known for his blatant unapologetic-ignorance and racism which sparks controversy across the world was earlier discussed here as a leader who would among other things help to make Africa great or great again.
Chances are that Trump’s proposals could be challenged on practical, financial and legal grounds, but it is what he says to a fragile world dealing with modern racism and outright discrimination that is worrying. All in all, his administration would be very hostile to immigration, and become a setback for Obama’s leadership efforts to give a reprieve to illegal immigrants with children born in the US and have no criminal record.
On the other hand, Clinton’s democratic moves would mean supporting the Obama reprieve.
Strong Institutions or strong leaders?
All over the world, people are in support of the discourse that Africa needs strong institutions more than strong leadership. With powerful institutions, Africa, and its people would benefit from its unmatched vast wealth, consequently leading to development.
During his visit to Accra, Ghana, in 1999 President Obama said Africa needs strong institutions, not men, a declaration that was echoed by Hillary during her four tours of duty to Africa.
“The days of having outsiders come and extract the wealth of Africa for themselves, leaving nothing or very little behind, should be over in the 21st century,” she said in 2012 showcasing her stand against neo-colonialism. She also advocated for an exit of “autocratic rulers who care more about preserving their grip on power than promoting the welfare of their citizens.” One year earlier, Pambazuka’s Isaac Odoom quoted Hillary as saying: “When people come to Africa to make investments, we want them to do well but also want them to do good… We don’t want them to undermine good governance in Africa.”
But critics argue this was just but a show of muscle. America was feeling the pinch from other foreign investors especially China. According to media reports, Clinton’s visit to the continent was to woo African leaders to continue valuing America’s “commitment to democracy and human rights”, which should make them a better partner than the “rivals”.
According to Jayati Ghosh, this is ironic as the European companies continue to exploit African countries, as much, if not more than the rivals. “If anything,” Ghosh argues, “their concern now is that competition from Chinese and Indian (and even Brazilian and Malaysian) firms is forcing them to offer better terms for their resource extraction.” Ghosh presents the argument as follows:
In “free trade agreements” signed with developing country partners, the US and the EU regularly demand the opening up of markets, as well as extensive intellectual property rights and investment protection that favor the interests of their own large companies over poor citizens of those countries. Most “technical assistance” aid really funds the northern consultants of the global development industry rather than contributing to economic diversification and knowledge expansion in the south.”
While, the US advocates for strong institutions, on the flip side, they continue to show support- directly or otherwise- to Africa’s strongmen in Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia and elsewhere.
Trump is not out to make a name with fighting for democracy especially in Africa, he, most likely to favor strong leaders over institutions.
“Trump is more willing to ignore democracy and work with strong men if it brings stability and helps African interests,” an African diplomat with a long tenure in the US told the Nation.
Thus, the fight to install strong institutions in Africa has been left for Africans to forge the way and make sound decisions that will bring about development in various spheres of life.
Scraping off AGOA
Established in 2000, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is part of the trade and Development Act of 2000 which offers tangible incentives for African countries to continue their efforts to open their economies and build free markets. It gives goods from Sub-Saharan countries tariff-free access to US markets.
Neither Trump nor Clinton has powers to touch AGOA. The Act, which was renewed until 2025 is beyond presidential remit, and in any case, it is too small to target.
What about President Obama’s Africa initiative and Emergency Plan for Aids Relief project?
President Obama’s Power Africa initiative, which is a $7 billion plan has little US Government money and facilitates American private companies investing on the continent, which is a good thing for the US. As such, both candidates would want to keep projects that benefit America strong and growing.
Set up by George Bush and maintained by Obama, the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief costs the US relatively little, and it is a plus because it saves lives of poor Africans.
While it is clear that Trump would ditch democracy provided America’s interests are met, Hillary “will have a harder job having to juggle between pushing the democracy agenda while pursuing the American one. The policy will always revolve around American interest, regardless of who is president,” The Nation reported.