By Irene Fowler
According to IMF’s 2016 World economic outlook, global economic growth will be driven by emerging markets in Africa and Asia. Cote d’Ivoire ranked No. 2 in their list of top 10 emerging markets. The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) of 2000 grants duty free status to sub-Saharan countries for most products imported into America. This trade preference policy is a bid to open up African markets to American goods and services and to develop and fortify the African business landscape through increased trade and investment.
According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative charged with implementing and overseeing AGOA, a 2013 programme initiative was announced by President Obama during his 2013 visit to Africa, which would “seek to increase internal and regional trade within Africa and expand economic ties between Africa, the United States and other global markets.” It is axiomatic that Africa needs the unabated commitment and stalwart political will of the next administration to further the intents and purposes of AGOA and the Obama 2013 trade initiative.
Conversely, gains hitherto made under the auspices of AGOA will be reversed and indeed the Act itself will be ultimately checkmated, whilst potential mutual benefits will be lost. Furthermore, the dictum “nature abhors a vacuum,” will be bolstered as China which has become Africa’s biggest trading partner, will no doubt capitalise on the situation to fill the void. I strongly believe that most Africans would prefer increased trade with America given China’s poor human rights record, lack of transparency and environmental neglect.
Another consequence which may occur from jettisoning AGOA and/or failing to consolidate and expand its scope would be that the flood of economic refugees from Africa to the West would be increased. This would no doubt worsen the already extremely toxic social and economic environment in affected Western countries. On a more sinister note, it would play into the hands of terrorist groups, active on the continent, such as Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab and Al Queda in the Islamic Maghreb, as fewer people would be lifted out of poverty exponentially, thereby widening the pool of recruits for terror groups, making the world less safe for all.
From all indications Africa would be better off with a Clinton administration, as there is every indication it would build on AGOA and President Obama’s ensuing 2013 initiative. A Trump administration may not augur well for the crystallisation of the vision spearheading AGOA. On the balance of probabilities, in pursuing his stated aims of making America great again through insular thinking and protectionism, he may be dismissive of the spirit of AGOA or give it cursory attention.
As an African female lawyer, active in the areas of international law, education, human rights and gender empowerment, it would be remiss of me to ignore the portents of a Clinton presidency for Africa vis-à-vis the upliftment of African females. Should Secretary Clinton win the presidency, her ascendancy to the highest office in America and the concomitant role of “leader of the free world,” would singlehandedly cause a seismic shift in the way females in Africa are traditionally viewed and treated. In effect, the scenario is pregnant with the possibility of landing “a debilitating blow” to the age old “male child preference” syndrome, which has plagued the African continent and is recognised by the United Nations as a “Harmful traditional practice,” which causes lasting emotional, mental and physical pain and trauma and must be addressed and put aside.
The litany of human rights abuses and violations which arise from the incessant discrimination suffered by the African girl child not only perpetuates their social and economic subjugation, but also cements their inferior status in society. A Clinton presidency would elevate the innate, intrinsic and inalienable value of the African girl child, paving the way to ensure their access to an education through a share in family resources, which in many cases are scarce and are reserved for males. The underlying misguided philosophy is that females are inherently handicapped and that males are more likely to be successful and would therefore be able to contribute to the family’s upkeep and welfare.
Judging from recent revelations concerning Mr. Trump’s shocking and repugnant behaviour towards women, which has been universally rebuked and even repudiated by his allies and family, I believe that if elected president, it would be a sad day for African women.
As far as global security is concerned, I am more inclined to throw my hat in with Secretary Clinton. Mr. Trump has publicly demonstrated severe character flaws and other limitations ad nauseum, which render him patently ill-equipped to ensure or promote the delicate global balance of power. His tenuous grasp of global affairs, superficiality, childlike mien and churlish behaviour are chief debilitating factors, any of which should disqualify him from exercising control over the nuclear codes as the Commander in Chief of the American Armed Forces.
Notwithstanding Secretary Clinton’s open transgressions, I believe that her profound public service experience, superior skills set and even keeled disposition will serve world affairs better.
Ms. Fowler is a lawyer