Africa Braces For A Possible Trump Presidency

Five key concerns that Africa should be considering if a Trump victory comes to pass in 2024
23 May 2024
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The US election is just six months away and voters are facing an unprecedented choice between Donald Trump, who has been appearing in court almost as much as on the campaign trail, and Joe Biden who continues to surprise the public with his gaffes as he struggles with declining poll numbers .

While the US voting public may be scratching its head as Trump gains momentum ahead of the upcoming elections, the African continent has its own set of concerns.

In this article, we outline five key concerns that Africa should be considering if a Trump victory comes to pass - from the impact of an America-first policy on democracy to shifting political alliances with major regional powers including South Africa.

Is African democracy secure under Trump?

America's stated position has always been to support democracy and defeat tyranny but in practice, the world superpower has ended up making several political concessions in favor of authoritarian regimes.

America's Africa strategy has been no exception, with allies being picked and chosen for pragmatic reasons by almost every U.S. administration.

While the world watches the situation in Washington and analysts and punters bet who will be next president , bookmakers favor Trump as the +260 favorite to win the 2024 US election. However, questions are being raised about the possible effect of his presidency on African democracy.

  • While the political situation in many Africa countries has improved dramatically over the past decades, there are still several problematic regimes on the continent.
  • With China implementing a no questions asked policy when it comes to the chosen political system of African aid recipient nations, the United States, and to a lesser extent Europe, are the only powers that are able to require democratic reforms in exchange for development assistance.  

Will Donald Trump insist on democratic reforms or opt for a win-win outcome no matter who sits across from him at the table? The case of Somaliland will provide an interesting clue in the near future.

How would Trump resolve the Horn of Africa crisis?

It's no surprise to anyone on the African continent that Somalia is undergoing social and political turmoil, with the country having been ungovernable over the past few decades.

Recently, however, the official Somali government's inability to maintain order has reached new heights with an independent region known as Somaliland insisting on full autonomy more than 30 years after it proclaimed its sovereignty.

Much like the situation in North and South Sudan, America's calls for peaceful solutions have not had the effect of stopping the secession movement. Very soon, the United States will have to decide whether to recognize the territory as an official country or not.

To date, Biden has been reluctant to engage with Somaliland but there is no evidence to suggest that Trump would not be open to giving full recognition to the new territory. This is especially likely if some kind of trade or investment benefit may accrue from the decision.

Will Trump counter China's Africa development agenda?

The 21st century has seen the huge expansion of China's political presence on the African continent, with $5 billion in development aid flowing from Beijing each year.

There's no doubt that this development assistance has resulted in the emergence of new industries and infrastructure, but the initiative has not been without its critics on the continent and internationally.

  • The terms and conditions attached to China's investments, particularly the ceding of mineral rights, as well as the harsh financial treatment which Sri Lanka experienced after defaulting on its own obligations to Beijing have many Africans worried.
  • America has traditionally played a smaller role in Africa than Europe but as it risks losing its place as the continent's number one donor the prospect of interfering with China's development ambitions may be reason enough for Trump to take action.

Should he   involve the United States in strategic infrastructure projects, along with US ally Japan which   has doubled its aid to Africa over the past decade, the diplomatic balance between the world's two biggest economies could become increasingly tense.

South Africa: friend or rival to the Trump administration?

As one of the biggest economies on the African continent and by some measures the most sophisticated market south of the Sahara, South Africa has always been an important trading and strategic partner to the US.

However, in recent years, relations between the two countries have frayed considerably.

The latest diplomatic tension between South Africa and the US began when Pretoria dispatched a legal team to open several criminal court cases against Israel at the ICC relating to the war in Palestine.

In terms of this legal action, Israel is accused of human rights violations including genocide.

Biden's administration has labeled the case "meritless" but has stopped short of penalizing South Africa in any way. Trump may not be so diplomatic, especially given his pro-Israel stance.

In Summary

Donald Trump looks increasingly likely to win the US election.   Africa will need to study his foreign policy agenda carefully while preparing for the prospect of diplomatic shitsake ups, rivalries with China, and -   potentially -   a weaker emphasis on democratic values.

The true reality and impact of Trump's policy agenda will only be felt in the aftermath of the election. For the next six months, the African continent will have to wait cautiously as it plots its way forward.

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