(CNN) – In Africa, leaders and citizens are still wondering what to expect from President Donald Trump.
Two weeks into his presidency and Trump has rattled many relationships, from upsetting Asian trading partners to rocky relations with Mexico. And the latest – banning people from seven countries from entering the United States – included three African nations: Libya, Sudan and Somalia.
But the Trump administration’s views on Africa remain largely a mystery.
Ronak Gopaldas, Head of Country Risk for Rand Merchant Bank (SA), says, “Africa is not likely to feature strongly on the priority agenda unless there’s a return on investment, and we know Donald Trump is a business man and that’s the paradigm he uses. Africa’s economic and geopolitical value will depend on that perception.”
A different approach by his predecessor Barack Obama who initiated a $7 billion Power Africa plan to bring electricity to the continent. George W. Bush introduced PEPFAR, providing billions to fight AIDS and tuberculosis. He also quadrupled assistance to sub-Saharan Africa.
It’s anticipated that President Trump will have other issues on his mind, and this might just spell bad news for the continent.
Aly Khan-Satchu, CEO of Rich Management in Kenya, says, “Some African leaders think it’s a get out of jail free card. Tillerson and Trump won’t be focusing on human rights, they’ll be focusing on other interests.”
There’s also the African Growth and Opportunities Act – AGOA – a preferential trade pact allowing African countries to export thousands of products to the U.S., tax-free. Trump can’t sign this pact away easily like he did with Trans-Pacific Partnership; Congress signed AGOA into legislation until 2025.
Khan-Satchu says, “We’re expecting Trump to be transactional, business minded and all about counter-terrorism, but we want to see AGOA remain”
U.S. – Africa trade totaled $37 billion in 2015 – down around 30% from the previous year, falling behind China and Europe. Developmental aid to sub-Saharan Africa in 2015 was $6 billion.
Ike Chioke MD from Afrinvest West Africa in Nigeria says, “It will be a challenging time for Africa when Donald Trump goes ahead in putting America first. Because that nationalistic, protectionist, approach has multiple implications”
Kenyan Cabinet Secretary of Tourism Najib Balala says, “Africa needs to reflect – it’s the right time with all the new challenges in the world”
As the U.S. takes a more insular view – it seems Africa might do some inward reflecting of its own.
Bob Collymore, CEO of Safaricom in Kenya, says, “Because of poor leadership for decades and because businesses and governments have colluded to leave people behind, that is why we’ve ended up with this kind of leadership and Donald Trump is not the only one…Africa needs to be more self-sufficient as a continent. We import everything. The continent imports 30% of the food that it eats, despite having 60% of arable land in the world”
Just as President Trump tries to spur jobs and growth – Africa too, needs focus on shoring up local industries in an increasingly uncertain global environment.Copyright 2017 CNN