Africa worried about what a Trump presidency holds
It is said that when America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold and as international media houses continue to broadcast the results of the American election, it is safe to say that the whole world is in a state of panic at the prospect of a Trump Presidency. The University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa could be described as a mini African Union at this moment as journalists from over 28 nations gathered at the African Investigative Journalism Conference that ran from the 7th to the 9th of November 2016.
The organizers of the conference had setup a viewing area with several screens that opened at 6:00 am on Wednesday, November 9, 2016 to allow delegates follow the results of the election as they trickled in. The majority of journalists here had hoped that the viewing session would be a time of celebration for Africa as Hillary Clinton cruised to victory in what would be a continuation of President Barrack Obama’s policies especially towards Africa.
But the reality was quite different as I walked into that viewing area on Wednesday, November 9 8:00 am Johannesburg time to find gloomy journalists huddled over their computers trying to comprehend what was going on over 10,000 kilometers away. Others just sat hunched over their seats staring gloomily at the screen in disbelief. There was a quiet mood all over the University as students gathered in small groups and one could occasionally hear the words ‘worried,’ ‘Trump,’ ‘Obama’, and ‘Hillary,’ Throughout the course of the day various panel speakers at Wits University kept referencing Trump, a clear sign that it would take some time for the reality of a Trump Presidency to sink in.
Doaa Farid is an Egyptian Journalist who is very worried about what a Trump Presidency would mean for the Middle East. She spoke to me on the sidelines of the conference and confessed: “I am very sad and I did not expect it. I am very worried about the Middle East because you know that we have wars in Yemen, Syria and Iraq and now I am concerned that the list will be longer.”
The 23-year-old business reporter believes that her county and the Trump administration will not have too many problems because they share the same beliefs and she also states that the majority of Egyptians living in America are Coptic Christians who are known to support the Republican Party so she doesn’t think that they will be affected much.
Eromo Egbejule, a Nigerian journalist, sees parallels between a Trump Presidency and the current administration of Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari. The 26-year-old freelance journalist explains his controversial statement by simply stating: “They (Americans) wanted the wind of change which is exactly what Trump promised to bring in America so people decided to be blind to his flaws just like those of Buhari in Nigeria.”
But he also has a strong warning for the people of America whom he feels can learn a lot from Nigeria. In his opinion, “Nigerians are already seeing some of the results of a Buhari Presidency, the economy has gone south and I am afraid that, that is what will happen in America as well”.
For Zimbabwe, a Trump Presidency could have a direct effect on the economy according to Byron Mutingwende, the Editor of Spiked Zimbabwe Online. He reminded me that “before his election, Trump was reported to have threatened to imprison several Presidents including ours for violating human rights. We do not know if he will follow through on that threat.”
But Mutingwende is equally worried about the economy and the living standards of the ordinary Zimbabwean under a Trump led America. He gives me a quick economics lessons by explaining that “My country adopted a multi-currency system in 2008 and the U.S. Dollar is the most predominantly used currency. Currently, there are serious cash shortages – the U.S. Dollar has virtually disappeared in the banks yet it is the currency that is used to buy everything.”
He summarizes it all by stating: “Zimbabwe needs a relationship with America. The USAID for example is providing drought relief to address the effects of the El-Nino induced drought while PEPFAR was funding HIV/AIDS programs so strained relations would be disastrous to the country.”
South Africans are the hosts of this regional conference and a morning show presenter who I spoke to did not have kind words for the new American President. 23-year-old Olwethu Sakata does not foresee good relations between the United States and South Africa basing her opinion on the comments Trump made during his campaign. As an African woman she labels Trump not just as a racist but also a sexist who has a low opinion about women. Her heart went out to Africans living in America who may suffer under the new President’s policies.
Other journalists refused to talk to me staring away in disgust every time I mentioned the word ‘Trump.’ Clearly, Africa has caught a collective cold and Trump’s statements in the coming days will either aggravate the symptoms or provide much needed relief to a continent whose growth is linked to American policy.
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