Africa must work with partners to mitigate the impact of Trump’s agenda

US President Donald Trump did not refer to Africa once in his first State of the Union Address. His predictable focus was on several highly contentious domestic issues Americans will have to resolve for themselves.

Africa has vital stakes in how Americans deal with three of these: climate change, foreign assistance, and immigration.

All are being contested in the US Congress, judiciary and the court of US public opinion. Each deserves sustained diplomatic attention and lobbying by African governments, the African Union, and in concert with other concerned nations.

Africans cannot ignore Trump. But in trying to meet the needs of their people, a more promising way of engaging America is to seek closer partnerships with those opposing the president and who can provide sustained support of Africa’s own democratic aspirations.

The threat of climate change

Although Trump did not mention climate change in his address, he boasted:

We have ended the war on American Energy — and we have ended the war on clean coal.

This poses a direct threat to Africa as America is the world’s largest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases, with the burning of oil and coal the main cause of the cumulative effect.

Southern Africa is already warming at an alarming rate, twice the global mean. Cape Town, one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, is suffering through its worst drought ever. It risks becoming the world’s first major city to run out of water.

Urban environmental activists in the US are likely to identify more with the plight of Cape Town than with climate-linked human suffering due to desertification, lack of potable water, and conflicts across other areas of sub-Sahara Africa, but both face a common enemy.

Africa’s immediate challenge is to secure greater support from US environmentalists and other political activists to limit the effects of Trump’s decision to terminate US funding and of the new Green Climate Fund. America and China had championed this fund to help African and other highly vulnerable countries adjust to climate change and ensure their support for the 197-nation Paris Climate Accord.

Trump opposes the Accord, but majorities in all 50 US states favour America’s continued participation, a cause for hope that his climate change polices can’t be sustained.

Foreign assistance

Regarding the future of US foreign assistance, Trump made only one comment, but with a twist certain to rankle African governments. He called on the Congress to pass legislation that would make future assistance conditional on recipients agreeing to support his administrations foreign policy decisions. These includes such controversial decisions as US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Those African governments still dependent on foreign-assistance and may be reluctant to challenge Trump. Yet as his conditions become more onerous and his offers less attractive, saying no may be less risky.

African countries acting collectively and in partnerships with as broad a spectrum as possible among the growing resistance to Trump, can help ensure current programs important to Africa are sustained. This, while containing and countering Trump’s threats.

Migration policy

A third topic of special interest to Africa, US immigration policy, was also probably the issue of greatest concern to a majority of the estimated 45.6-million Americans who watched Trump’s address. Two aspects of Trump’s domestically divisive reform proposal would have widespread direct effects in Africa.

One is his call to end the lottery system that allows more equitable access to citizens from countries previously under-represented, many of them African. This has proven to be good for American diversity and the economy, while generating substantial remittances for low income sending countries.

African-Americans in Congress support the program. But public opinion is running against its continuation, while Trump condemns it using terms Africans regard as racist.

Trump’s other immigration reform proposal would also affect many Africans negatively and very personally. It would end an already limited provision for family unification. In his address, Trump falsely alleged that currently

a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives.

That’s what he and his supporters call “chain migration”. The term certain to offend the millions of African-Americans whose ancestors were forcibly brought to America in chains, without regard to family ties. Trump’s demagoguery of this issue has sowed public confusion.

Finding common cause

Africans who are frustrated, even fearful, of Trump’s racist views and vindictive actions should listen to the Democratic Party’s response to the State of the Union Address, delivered by Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy III.

Kennedy is the grandson of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who sought renewed personal and political purpose by going to Apartheid South Africa in 1966 to appeal publicly for racial equality and justice. Faithful to the standard of his grandfather, in words similar to those of Barack Obama, Joe Kennedy called for a more inclusive America, a country that belongs to all who live there. This is the strategic position of the Democratic Party.

This is heartening given that, according to all reputable polls, Democrats lead Republicans ahead of November 2018 legislative elections and 2020 presidential vote.

John J Stremlau, 2017 Bradlow Fellow at SA Institute of International Affairs, Visiting Professor of International Relations, University of the Witwatersrand

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Conversation


Hlophe complaint is an eerie echo

But the new complaint against the Western Cape judge president is also unprecedented

Mabuza contract grows by R10m

Eskom’s negotiators in a R100-million maintenance contract came back with a proposal to push up the costs

‘There were no marks on his neck’, Neil Aggett inquest...

The trade unionist’s partner at the time he was detained at John Vorster Square says she now believes his death was not a suicide

Study unpacks the ‘hidden racism’ at Stellenbosch

Students say they feel unseen and unheard at the university because of their skin colour

Press Releases

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

MTN unveils TikTok bundles

Customised MTN TikTok data bundles are available to all prepaid customers on *136*2#.

Marketers need to reinvent themselves

Marketing is an exciting discipline, offering the perfect fit for individuals who are equally interested in business, human dynamics and strategic thinking. But the...

Upskill yourself to land your dream job in 2020

If you received admission to an IIE Higher Certificate qualification, once you have graduated, you can articulate to an IIE Diploma and then IIE Bachelor's degree at IIE Rosebank College.

South Africans unsure of what to expect in 2020

Almost half (49%) of South Africans, 15 years and older, agree or strongly agree that they view 2020 with optimism.

KZN teacher educators jet off to Columbia University

A group of academics were selected as participants of the programme focused on PhD completion, mobility, supervision capacity development and the generation of high-impact research.

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.