President Elect Donald Trump’s call to “Make America Great Again” endeared him to the American electorate. A great and winning America should worry Africa. When the United States of America was at its apex in the global power chain, the country had a dim view of Africa.
The US perceived the African continent as largely characterized by coups and chaos. The alternative perception of Africa as a possible future motor for global economy started taking shape when America’s overwhelming sway on global events receded.
When America was great (pax Americana), it deployed its overwhelming power to shape global systems. The country was once the factory of the world. Its high technology at the Silicon Valley revolutionized the World.
In the years 1970 – 2000 America was a lead contributor at 21.2 percent to the global economic output. During the same period, African countries registered mostly negative growth that was as low as negative 1.5 percent. It is during this period that entrenched the prevailing warped mindset that solutions to challenges facing Africa must emanate from outside.
When America’s position as a key driver of global economy started declining in the year 2000; its mindset towards Africa slightly changed as evidenced through the enactment of The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). America’s position as a key contributor to the global economy is projected to continue to fall to 14.9 percent by 2018 as China, a newcomer, overtakes it. America’s closest rival, China, contributed only 4.1 percent to the global economy in the 70s rising to 15.6 percent in 2015. The Chinese contribution to global economy is projected to hit 17.2 percent by 2025. The period between the years 2000 – 2016 has led to a significant narrative change on Africa from one of a desolate continent to one that offers great opportunity.
Historically, a great America has had both positives and negatives. A great America ended the Second World War in Europe. In Africa, it indirectly triggered the end of political colonization. It also facilitated an interconnected World thereby offering a platform for prosperity to millions across the globe. The downside to a great America was forcing American will on countries (especially in Africa and the Middle East) and triggering the financial crisis that shook global markets in 2008.
Africa is a low production zone. On average, the continent contributes only 0.1 percent of the global economic output. This low productivity pushes Africa’s vibrant and youthful population to seek opportunities in developed economies. Instead of a wall against migrants; Trump should seek to enhance successful African owned enterprises to reduce the migration pressure that has become a campaign issue in the US and many Western capitals.
Africans should be worried. A winning America may want to amplify and relegate the continent into a warzone for competing geopolitics. A winning America is likely to relax its regulatory environment since it may care less how it wins. This will be in contrast with the recent past US effort to stem violence caused by quest for minerals on the continent. A notable example is the Dodd Frank Financial Bill 2010 that requires US companies to disclose source of minerals meant to dry up financing to militias in resource rich countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo.
President Elect Donald Trump should push for grow-Africa scenario both in terms of productivity and global participation in order to give hope to the continent in the emerging new World order. If Africa grows, it will offer markets and opportunities for the great America as well.
By James Shikwati
The author is Founder Director of the Inter Region Economic Network (IREN), [email protected]
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