Jean-Jacques Cornish

Africans work on worst case scenario when dealing with Trump policy

by Jean-Jacques Cornish

It is said that you campaign in poetry and govern in prose.

US president-elect Donald Trump’s campaigned with a knuckle sandwich and is moving towards governing with blankety-blank.

He divided supporters and opponents between delight and horror at what he did on the hustings. They are united now in complete ignorance about what in earth he is doing.

My favorite writer on Africa Michaela Wrong commented that Donald Trump is teaching Americans the real meaning of the devil is in the detail.

What a painful lesson it will be from someone not merely economical truth, but often a total stranger to it.

Trump says one thing on camera in the morning and denies any knowledge of it after lunch.

Small wonder the policy watchers,  who have made a career of knowing within days whom an approaching president might appoint and what policies his administration might implement, remain completely in the dark.

Just yesterday he demolished two cornerstones of his campaign: bringing “crooked Hillary” to justice via a special prosecutor and blocking US payments to fighting the “Chinese hoax” of climate change.

The Donald does not have toothier telling us his threats were  just locker room talk or marketing because he has dozens of people clamoring for the jobs he has in his favor assuring us it is no big deal.

What hope then of even guessing what a Trump administration plans to do about Africa.

Our continent did not feature in the campaign. Foreign policy seldom does.

Since the sixties, Africa has managed to elbow its way onto the US domestic agenda.

I have  heard no convincing argument that Africa will slide down the priorities of the Trump administration.

For starters, there is no payback from the Donald for any African leader because as far as can be ascertained then opposed him to a man – or woman, in the case of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Liberian president who lamented Hillary Clinton’s defeat.

Whoever he appoints as his undersecretary of state for Africa will his or her work cut out explaining to him the concept of the African diaspora, of which the US is a major component, as the fifth region of continent.

Africans are expecting a Trump administrations to be intolerant and disinterested in Africa where is impinges on the hardline American domestic interest.

But will it go further than this?

Will there be a decline in US investment in Africa?

What will become of the 16-year-old African Growth and Opportunity Act that gives African favoured access to US markets?

Could it go the same way as other trade deals the protectionists  Trump is promising to tear up?

So African analysts are reduced to putting a brave face  on what might happened if things go as badly as currently expected.

If there is a decline in US aid, it will help break the cycle of dependence.

If access to US markets is curtailed, it will force African to work as improving intra-African trade.

And if Africa is repelled by the US, it would team the continent is driven even closer to China.


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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.