Start of the Trump years: What’s In It For Africa?
By Ogbonna Nwuke
I mopped at the TV screen as Donald Trump took a walk along the designated parade route, clutching unto his wife’s right hand and waving to the enthusiastic crowds. It was like a scene out of a well scripted Hollywood movie. Can’t really remember the name of the US musician who wrote a great song about life in America just as the Ronald Reagan years in the White House got underway. I am not even sure I remember the tittle of the song either. But still, I vividly remember the lyrics of that song which said America was staring at a movie. The song recalled how the American people looked up to John Wayne each time they were in trouble, concluding that with John Wayne gone, Americans glued to a movie, were more or less saying Ronald Reagan. A song you would say, and you would be dead right! Songs evoke all kinds of feelings, emotion and passion.
As I followed the live coverage on CNN, those lyrics kept flashing past. I realised those words captured the mood in America today as it did at the time of its release. Who could have believed at the time that America would settle for a film star as president? Who could have thought in this age that a Washington outsider would be sworn in as the latest American president?
That’s Uncle Sam for you! Especially if you talk like a tough aggressive guy from the wild Wild West with a smoking gun!! Whether we like or not; whether we reside in the US or outside of it; the rest of us appear right now to be staring at a movie as someone who knows very little about how Washington works, how the international system operates, steps into the world stage.
Obviously as history unfolds, the history maker is Donald Trump, a businessman whose handlers all through the fiery campaign that almost tore America apart likened to Ronald Reagan.
I really don’t know why Trump’s people chose to tag unto the Reagan name, or why the American people fell for it. I also doubt I’d like to know after all that has happened.
Trump had promised on his way to Capitol Hill to bring back American jobs; promised to make America great again; and promised to chase out Washington insiders whom he accused of ripping off ordinary Americans.
To get to the US presidency, Trump broke with tradition, tossed what was left of the etiquette governing electioneering behaviour into the thrash can, and recorded one of the most stunning of victories in American history.
As America enters into a new phase, Trump isn’t simply wrong when he says what’s happening in America is like never before seen. Within America where Trump is promising to unite a divided nation, there is really tension. Never, since after the civil rights movement has there been such a threat to national cohesion.
To cap it, there have been several controversies as well as angry demonstrations that are trailing the Trump administration. These include women groups who insist as Trump takes over the oval office that they won’t let anyone roll back rights they have earned over the years or allow any one for that matter to infringe on the rights of their children. There are many among black and Latino communities who are worried and sick about the future of their families in a country that they call home. So are the Muslim families too. These worries are arising from Trump’s utterances during the campaign and the impact that those comments are having among white supremacists who think a new dawn is here.
Washington watchers are amazed too by the number of billionaires who have been appointed into the Trump cabinet. And impressed by attempts to halt companies in America that are trying to ship out on account of what they see as higher taxes.While Americans attempt to come to terms with the reality of the moment, it is abroad that anxiety over the Trump era is currently mounting.What will happen? What will a world with Donald Trump as US president be like?
Although there has always been some kind of consistency in America’s outlook to the world, whether it is the Republicans or Democrats who are in power, not many members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation for instance, can predict in which direction Trump would pull when it comes to America’s alliances.
Besides, the world isn’t as peaceful and stable as Trump takes centre stage. There is a frightening refugee crisis that has taken a global dimension, creating serious immigration problems. Europeans who are hard hit by the influx are still grappling with solutions as the situation escalates.
The Middle East hasn’t come close to a two-state solution as envisaged by the United Nations, and the rivalry of the super powers hasn’t helped matters, particularly in Syria. Tension mounts in Turkey and along the Kurdish border. Israel remains as intransigent as ever, threatening to redefine its role with the UN while Iran becomes more of a force to reckon with in the region. The Saudis who have a war of their own haven’t been outdone either. They seem to have become more beligerent. The ascendency of ISIS and other jihadist groups which are spreading as far as Europe and Africa has further complicated security concerns.
There is global warming to think about. Trouble is Trump doesn’t seem to realise how much of a threat this is to the human habitat.
This is not to forget nuclear proliferation in Asia, namely in Pakistan, North Korea and India. There is the rumble in the China seas to worry about, China’s face off with Taiwan to figure out and China’s growing influence worldwide to contend with.
But what has Trump in stock for Africa where the oil curse, massive corruption, crippling trade imbalances in the international community, and worsening terrorism holds sway?
Most of Africa depends on foreign aid from wealthy countries, including America. What would be the US attitude towards Africa now that Trump is in charge?
Will he extend an olive branch or simply allow Africa to sort out itself against the backdrop of his America first agenda?
Africa holds a lot of promise when it comes to investment opportunities. Rich in human and materials, Africa is in dire need of attention and most Africans would judge the Trump years, not by what it does to make America great again, but by what America does to make Africa a better place.
Helping to sort out Africa could help reduce international migration problems, open more markets and address massive unemployment challenges.
In the days to come, it is evident that Africans would look forward to a Trump policy on Africa which points the way forward and defines its relationship with the United States.
Together Africa and the United States can really make a new movie. The one who can help direct the developmental film is here, the cast with all who work behind the scene are ready for the shoot while the world is waiting for the ultimate product to premiere.
In the meantime, I can only join all other concerned citizens of our changing world to say welcome to President Trump even as many afraid of the future engage in anti-American demonstrations.
Ogbonna Nwuke sent in this piece from Port Harcourt, Rivers State