Like elsewhere in the world, Republican candidate Donald Trump’s upset win in the presidential election surprised Africa. It is widely believed to have negative effects on the future of Africa or even contain catastrophic consequences for the continent. During the election, the intelligentsia and media in major African countries were extensively in favor of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, with a hope that the former Secretary of State who had visited Africa many times and seemed to have a better understanding of Africa would bring future US-Africa relations to a new high. No reaction was more typical and representative than that from Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, who angrily said in a speech at Oxford University that if Trump won the election he would cut up his green card and start packing up to leave the country. Soyinka won the 1986 Nobel Prize in literature. He has been living and teaching in the US for many years.
African intelligentsia felt disappointed or even angry because of Trump’s harsh words on Africa — and more importantly of a concern that Trump’s ‘America first’ stress and trade protectionism will further marginalize Africa in the foreign and economic policies of the US. Trump made no attempt to conceal his very negative views on Africa and Africans. He told African-Americans to ‘go back to Africa’ if they don’t like the US. He even posted a tweet that ‘South Africa is a total - and very dangerous – mess’.//this one seems to be true// Although we don’t know yet whether real estate developer Trump’s comment on Africa will be a basis for President Trump’s Africa policy, it may be anticipated that changes in American fiscal, economic and diplomatic policies when Trump is in the White House is likely to bring about harm rather than blessing to Africa.
On Dec 19, 2016, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and University of Oxford jointly published their latest report, pointing out that the Trump administration may have an expansionary fiscal posture and drastically increase infrastructure construction costs through spending cuts. Assistance to Africa may well be cut, which will affect a series of countries dependent on American aid, such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. As the US has been a leading source of aid to Sub-Saharan Africa, reduced American assistance and investment will naturally lead to decrease of available financial resources for African development. African countries are also worried about whether the Trump administration, which stresses America first, will continue implementing those acts and cooperation programs introduced by previous presidents, such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act of the Clinton Administration, the Millenium Challenge Corporation of the George W. Bush administration and the Power Africa project launched by the Obama administration.
Trump has been accusing China on issues of trade and exchange rate during the campaign and after winning the election. He even attempted to challenge the one-China principle. However, these bilateral issues pose limited challenges to the development of China-Africa relations. On the contrary, with the rapid growth of China-Africa ties in the past decade and the increased Chinese influence in Africa, African countries are able to give China a helping hand on the one-China question (for example Sao Tome and Principe’s recent move to cut its ties with Taiwan and resume diplomatic relations with the mainland) and China is also in a position to increase assistance to and trade with Africa while Trump cuts assistance and sets up trade barriers. Actually, at the 2015 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Summit in Johannesburg, President Xi Jinping announced a three-year cooperation plan of $60 billion. It was firm evidence of China’s determination to develop cooperation with Africa and advance development of Africa. If the Trump administration decides to abandon or further marginalize Africa, it will not mean the end of the African rise story. Rather, more African countries will move rapidly towards China so as to close the financial gap and avoid marginalization.
On Oct 24, 2016, Afrobarometer, a renowned non-partisan survey agency in Africa, published a report titled China’s Growing Presence in Africa Wins Largely Positive Popular Reviews. The poll was conducted among 54,000 people from 36 African countries. According to the poll results, most Africans believe China has made contributions to their countries’ development through its economic and political activities in Africa. They give positive evaluations to China’s infrastructure investment in Africa, its business and trade activities and products made in China. Besides a good impression of China’s role in African economic development, the report also shows that respondents regard China as a model of national development second only to the US in popularity. In this connection, if the Trump administration truly adopts a policy to marginalize Africa, the US may well lose its status as the favorite model of development among African people to China.