Trump vs Biden: the impact on Africa

Trump vs Biden: the impact on Africa

With Super Tuesday behind them, Joe Biden and Donald Trump have clear mandates from their parties to begin the battle for the 2024 American presidency in earnest.

Both candidates, whose ages are hovering around the 80-year-old mark, have outlined very different priorities for their prospective term in office, with Biden seeking to maintain the status quo and Trump threatening to upend the global political arena that is already on the brink of chaos.

Whoever wins the election, America’s enduring political and economic influence is bound to be felt in Africa. Which candidate’s agenda is more favorable (or less damaging) for the continent?

Which candidate would be a friend to Africa?

As Africa faces several political and military challenges against the backdrop of the continent’s ongoing development requirements, a healthy diplomatic and trade relationship with major countries like the United States is not only beneficial but absolutely vital.

In this context, politicians and businesspeople in Nigeria and beyond are looking cautiously at the unfolding US election for clues as to who may win and what Trump and Biden’s African policy may be respectively.

With an officially liberal agenda, Biden may appear to be Africa’s best hope over the next four years, but capturing the president’s full attention, and ensuring cooperation on trade and investment, is far from a given.

While the Democrat is more likely to maintain the status quo on issues like the AGOA Agreement which is coming under attack from critics who believe it benefits Africa less than America likes to claim, his attention is likely to be consumed by domestic challenges and the unfolding conflict in the Middle East as well as tensions with China.

Donald Trump may not seem like a natural ally to the African continent, especially with his history of offensive comments referencing Africans and people of color. However, his first term didn’t result in any disastrous economic consequences for the African continent and several initiatives like Prosper Africa undertaken by his administration may have helped to boost Nigeria’s economy as well as others on the continent.

Bookmakers allowing to bet on presidential elections place Trump at a 53% chance of victory, indicating that he is extending his lead over Biden. But as with many things in politics, this good fortune could be reversed overnight if the former president’s legal woes continue or in the wake of further revelations about his business practices.

In the best-case scenario, the pressing geopolitical conflicts in Israel, and the potential for a war between China and Taiwan could allow Africa to slip under the radar and enjoy the current trade benefits that the continent has secured with the US. This is especially likely if Joe Biden wins the election.

Will Biden continue trade and investment incentives?

In 2023, the United States did XX worth of business with Africa with X indirect foreign investment and XX in trade. As America’s economy powers ahead this year in contrast to China’s sluggish performance, capitalizing on demand for African exports in the world’s biggest economy is an essential strategy for regional powerhouses like Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa.

In order to maintain or increase the level of trade-in investment between Nigeria and the United States, a favorable diplomatic and political environment is key. If Joe Biden should win the election, chances are good that beneficial relations will continue unchanged.

Trump’s past comments win him few friends on the continent

When it comes to diplomacy, Donald Trump has never been known for his careful approach.

During his first term in office, the former president scandalized African leaders by referring to countries on the continent using vulgar language and implying that their citizens should never enter the United States.

Trump has pointed to his encouragement of investments in Africa as proof of his concern for the continent, but citizens and business leaders from Cape to Cairo have expressed concern over his controversial statements that many have interpreted as racist. With the former president standing accused of inciting an insurrection when his last election failed, there’s no telling what hat he may be capable of on the world stage.

Of particular concern to African leaders is the status of the AGOA Agreement which has given Africa preferential trade access to the United States. With Trump threatening to punish countries that “take advantage of America” in the trade arena, the possibility of unfavorable tariffs and other impediments to free trade may increase exponentially should Trump win the election.

A further concern is the prospect of an America-first policy that seeks to isolate the United States from its traditional responsibility to ensure that international trade, corporations, and geopolitics remain stable.

With the war in Sudan and allegations of Iranian interference in the conflict, American isolationism could spell trouble for large parts of the African continent.

Final Thoughts

As the US presidential election plays out, Africa is waiting eagerly to see which candidate the continent will need to deal with for the next four years.

While Joe Biden is likely to pursue a similar African policy as he grapples with several geopolitical challenges, Trump is more likely to be erratic and respond spontaneously to the evolving geopolitical and economic situation.

African business leaders, including those in Nigeria will be keen to see whether the new president makes significant changes to trade agreements, including AGOA.

Whoever becomes the new US president, the African political and business community will need to respond flexibly to secure the continent’s interests in relation to the world’s largest economy going forward.

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