President-elect Donald Trump Picture: Evan Vucci

Johannesburg - At noon (7pm SA time) on Friday in Washington, DC, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th president of the US, ushering in a new era for Americans and the world.

As Donald Trump enters the Oval Office, it remains unclear what exactly his policies towards Africa will be, or how they will affect the continent.

A plethora of fake news sites have posted derogatory quotes that Trump allegedly made about Africans during and after his election, although most turned out to be false.

Prior to his election, Trump said he saw tremendous potential in Africa, although he also commented on the rampant corruption and violence on the continent. He has had little to say about Africa since his election.

“Africa is unlikely to feature as one of the Trump administration’s foreign policy priorities, but this may even be a good thing,” Mohamed Dangor, an adviser to South Africa’s minister of international relations, told The Star.

“My prognosis would be that the US will become more inward looking, but, like Obama, Trump will understand that he is not his own master as the American system is the American system,” Dangor said.

Given Trump’s preoccupation with containing Islamist militancy, this will probably be the key objective of his administration in dealing with Africa. The US military command centre for Africa (Africom) is destined to play an even more central role in the US’s Africa policy, as it works with African states and regional organisations in counter-terrorism initiatives. The US has already established a series of military bases across the continent, and is set to expand its drone programme.

US military bases on the continent will pose a challenge to the AU’s human rights architecture, given the fact that Trump stated as a presidential candidate that he would encourage torture in the fight against terrorism.

In terms of trade with the continent, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), which gives African countries tariff-free access to US markets, was renewed in 2015 until 2025.

“Agoa is a trade preference and is not at the discretion of the president, but is affirmed and ratified by Congress. We hope that South Africans will continue to take advantage of this benefit, which provides South African companies duty-free access to the largest single market in the world. More than 98% of South African exports enter the US duty free under various trade preference programs, including Agoa,” the spokesperson for the US embassy in South Africa, Cynthia Harvey, told The Star.

There have been concerns throughout the African continent that the Trump administration would significantly reduce aid and development programmes, and may make cuts to Pepfar - George W Bush’s plan to tackle HIV/Aids in Africa. The US has committed more than $70 billion to fight HIV/Aids, tuberculosis, and malaria since 2003. The programme has provided 11.5 million Africans with much-needed antiretroviral drugs.

What is likely to be of concern to the Trump administration is the fact that the US is losing out to China in terms of business and investment in Africa. China overtook the US as Africa’s foremost trade partner in 2009.

Independent Foreign Service