Sub-Saharan Africa is comprised of forty-nine countries and approximately one billion people. Though seemingly distant, the U.S. presidential election in November will affect many of them, whether in terms of aid, economic opportunity, or otherwise. While neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump has prioritized African policy issues on the campaign trail, their official policies reveal what each candidate’s election could mean for the region. The hot button issues for Sub-Saharan Africa are free trade, security, and aid.
On trade, neither candidate is likely to dismantle the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). However, Trump has generally opposed international trade, so U.S. involvement in the African economy would likely shrink. Clinton supports trade with Africa, but emphasizes the importance of holding African countries accountable to their own growth. Accountability is also a theme of Clinton’s aid policy. A Clinton administration would likely continue aid programs in Africa; meanwhile, Trump plans to cut these programs and instead focus on domestic issues like infrastructure improvements.
African Growth and Opportunity Act: The Issue of Trade
In 2000, Congress set up AGOA, which gives goods from Sub-Saharan African countries tariff-free access to U.S. markets. President Obama expanded upon this in 2013 when he launched the Trade Africa project, which seeks to promote East African economic integration.
The Trump campaign has consistently opposed free trade, particularly regarding trade with Asia. If this is any indication of his stance on trade with Africa, a Trump presidency may call for the removal of the Obama administration’s preferential trade policies. Indeed, African leaders worry that this might be the case. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said in March 2016, “The US could limit our exports there, especially under Mr. Trump.…” However, it is unlikely that Mr. Trump will fight AGOA, as it is Congress, not the President, who initiates the process to repeal legislation. AGOA is also relatively small–too small to be worth targeting.
Clinton has defended AGOA since early in her tenure as Secretary of State and she is likely to continue to support the act if she becomes president. However, in 2010, Clinton noted that the trade deal is not unconditional. She stated at a forum on diplomacy that “the United States will do our part, but African countries have to start doing their part and making the changes that will grow the economies in the sub-Saharan region.”
The Future of Aid
The United States has historically been one of the continent’s largest donors, contributing a total of more than $9.5 billion in 2014. Aid under the Obama administration has been delivered through several projects, including increased funding for HIV/AIDS prevention programs.
Clinton has referred to foreign aid as one of the key pillars of American power. According to her website, she is also concerned with bringing accountability to the aid business. Additionally, the Clinton Foundation has been very active in Sub-Saharan Africa, focusing primarily on expanding access to healthcare. Thus, it is likely that a Clinton administration would continue to use aid as a foreign policy tool while still putting emphasis on strengthening accountability.
While Trump has not addressed Sub-Saharan Africa specifically, according to his website, a Trump administration would mean a decrease in foreign aid. In his announcement of his candidacy in June 2015, Trump stated that “it is necessary that we invest in our infrastructure, stop sending foreign aid to countries that hate us and use that money to rebuild our tunnels, roads, bridges and schools….”
The Issue of Security
During Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, U.S. security engagement in Africa, specifically against insurgent non-state actors, greatly expanded. This has been especially notable in areas such as joint training missions with African Union forces in Somalia, drone strikes against Al-Shabab, and logistical assistance to Nigerian military forces combatting Boko Haram. In addition to military assistance and infrastructure development, the U.S. security engagement in Africa has focused on strengthening the region’s resources and capacity to mitigate health and food security issues.
Although neither Clinton’s nor Trump’s campaigns have explicitly articulated a security policy approach to Africa, notable African leaders have expressed their strong support for Clinton. Kenya’s former Prime Minister Raila Odinga attended this year’s Democratic National Convention and pledged his full support to Clinton. In regards to his opinion of the Republican platform, Odinga remarked, “I don’t know if the Republicans have a policy on Africa. If they have it, I did not hear it.”
Despite the strides made under Secretary Clinton and the Obama administration, events such as the brutal attack on Kenya’s Garissa University that killed 147 students, a deadly ambush on UN peacekeepers in Mali, and Burundi’s political violence illustrate Africa’s increasingly tense security climate.
This article is part of a special Caravel series about how foreign policy proposals by the US presidential nominees will affect the regions that make up our sections. Foreign policy implications for other sections are available below: