African opinion on U.S. election split and wary of future

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By Soo Shin & Noah Menner

Some African news outlets were quite apprehensive about the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency just days before the election. One major theme in many of the media concerned whether relations between African countries and the United States would remain stable under a Trump administration.

South African media outlet News24 carried the campaign rallies of the two major party candidates daily, to show the level of interest by South Africa in the election. Both News24 and Reuters-Africa, one of the international news agencies supplying content to the continent, had features on how a Trump victory might impact the Johannesburg, South Africa, stock exchange and Asian markets that serve as a business and economic hub for a number of African countries.

The Guardian Post, a newsweekly in Cameroon, carried front-page features that showed Trump mocking President Obama and “his African brothers.” The feature quoted Trump as saying that the president and his African brothers are “lazy fools who are good at making babies, know nothing about leadership, and are case studies wherever bad examples are required.” A similar article was published in the Nigerian Watch, a UK-based newspaper for Nigerians.

The political editor of The Sun newspaper, Cameroonian Atia Azohnwi, said this kind of Trump talk is of special significance to many Africans living in the United States. He said they “think that Trump will deport their brothers and sisters.”

Africa News, a pan-Africa news agency, quoted 1986 Nobel laureate for the literature prize, Wole Soyinka, as saying that he would “cut my green card myself and start packing up,” the moment Trump was declared the winner of the presidency. The Nigerian playwright was said to have made the statement in a video conference call with an audience at Oxford University. The playwright splits his residence between his native Nigeria and the United States.

The election outcome foreshadows the fate of many Africans, opinion columnist Makawaia wa Kuhenga wrote in the Tanzanian Daily News on Oct. 21. “It means the result of the election can have a big impact on the Third World,” he said.

Cameroonian exchange student Pecuulano Ngwe Ali echoed the point. Ali, a graduate student at the MSU School of Journalism, said the significance of the election to Africa and the third world lies on the need for partnerships in economic, political and security areas. He said the politics that will follow the election can adversely affect “nations that are very dependent on the West.”

A Trump presidency could also complicate relations between many African countries and the United States because of differences over China. Both China and the United States compete for investments and trade opportunities in Africa. Tanzanian columnist and former associate editor of the Daily News Jaffar Mjasiri said the Tanzanian government might not be interested in who wins the election because U.S. policy does not change so easily.

He said that many countries in Africa are so concerned about their own internal affairs that the U.S. presidential election is not as important to them. He also said that sowing the seeds of doubt in people’s minds about the legitimacy of the so-called greatest democracy in the world actually undermines U.S. democracy.

Ethiopia’s Fortune news outlet reports that many Nigerian-Americans saw the possible election of Hillary Clinton as an extension of the Obama presidency from “controversial domestic issues to foreign policy matters.” The Africa News Network ANN7 quoted the South Africa Trade and Industry Minister on Nov. 2 as saying that whatever happened on Election Day “will have a major impact on the African Growth and Opportunity Act.” The legislation is a President Clinton era legislation that promotes trade and investment between Africa and the United States.

The Cameroonian journalist, Azohnwi, said some Africans don’t think President Obama did enough for Africa and thought Clinton would follow in his footsteps, with regard to Africa policy. He said some Africans think someone other than a Democrat might be better for Africa. Nigerian academic Abdul Hameed Ujo of the University of Abuja in Nigeria did not share the view. He wrote in the Abuja-based Daily Trust newspaper that a Clinton presidency would inspire African women and it could support bilateral assistance for promoting universal education in developing countries.

The Trust newspaper was not as positive about the prospect of a Trump presidency. It said a Trump victory would “lower the moral threshold of a mature democracy.”

(Additional reporting by Folu Ogundimu.)

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