Give Trump the “benefit of the doubt”, say African leaders

Some African leaders have called for US President-elect Donald Trump to be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his trade policy.


African leaders have urged people across the continent to give the US President-elect Donald Trump the “benefit of the doubt” following his shock victory on Tuesday.

Trump defeated former secretary of state Hillary Clinton in a keenly contested election, which saw the president-elect campaigning on an anti-globalisation and -free trade platform. The billionaire property tycoon has stated that he wants to tear up multilateral trade deals because they disadvantage US businesses and workers, but his rhetoric has alarmed international trading partners across the globe.

Despite the concerns about what Trump’s victory might mean for trade, some African leaders have said that Trump should be given a chance to express his plans. Leading the call was President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who told the BBC said that she hoped that Liberia-US trade deals would not be affected by Trump’s policies.

“We just don’t know what the new policy towards Africa will be under a Trump administration,” she said. “We’ll have to wait and see. Obviously, we are concerned but we have to just give him the benefit of the doubt.”

Johnson Sirleaf, who is Africa’s first democratically elected female president, also expressed her disappointment at the fact that the US failed to elect its first female in Mrs Clinton.

“We are extremely saddened by this missed opportunity on the part of the people of the United States to join smaller democracies in ending the marginalization of women,” Johnson Sirleaf said. “However, Liberia has a long and historical relationship with the United States and we expect the good relationship to continue.”

Meanwhile, Trump’s victory has been welcomed by other African leaders including Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who Tweeted: “

Meanwhile, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni also sent Trump congratulatory messages. Buhari said: “I look forward to working together with President-elect Trump to build on and strengthen relations between Nigeria & the USA,” while Museveni Tweeted: “I congratulate @realDonaldTrump upon his election as USA president. I look forward to working with him like I’ve done with his predecessors.” 

Nevertheless, Trump’s unexpected victory on Tuesday has raised concerns that the unpredictable property tycoon could be planning to tear up the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which gives sub-Saharan African countries tariff-free access to the US market. Such a move could jeopardise thousands of jobs and deny African countries millions of dollars in revenues.

However, some commentators view Trump’s isolationist policies as a potential opportunity for African countries. “In the case of Africa, Trump is likely to retract benefits under the AGOA and reduce US aid,” Patrick Bond, professor of political economy at the University of the Witwatersrand, said to the Conversation. “That isolationism, in turn, could give Africans a chance to recalibrate what is now an excessive, self-destructive reliance on the export of oil and gas, minerals and cash crops. Africa must focus on localising its economies to be able to meet basic needs.”

Taku Dzimwasha

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