Let’s hope Biden wins, though it might augur well for the oil in EAC

Leave a comment / By: manifel / 07 November, 2020 09:12:51AM
Let’s hope Biden wins, though it might augur well for the oil in EAC

It seems likely President Donald Trump will not have a second term in this anxiety-filled US election. As of yesterday (Friday) afternoon, vote returns showed former vice president Joe Biden very likely to take the Oval Office.

The stakes are global and, as many watchers of United States agree, a Biden presidency would be a good thing. 

It is expected, for instance, his administration would reverse the Trump decision to exit the World Health organization and rejoin the Paris Agreement to fight climate change. The US pullout from the Agreement incidentally took effect only this week. 

In this sense a Biden administration would be refreshing, returning things a sense of normalcy after a chaotic and polarising Trump reign that frayed alliances, started trade wars and vexed many foreign leaders with his erratic, transactional style. 

The hope in much of the world is that the US returns to a predictable polity and foreign policy.

In Africa though, it may not make much of a difference, according to foreign policy and international trade experts

They say the US-Africa policy will likely remain focused on countering China's influence, even if the Democrats win the White House. 

The US is also likely to sustain its momentum on fighting terrorist groups in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, including acting indirectly to support partners in the region.

Biden, however, has as yet not articulated his policy for Africa. This means it is not clear whether, for instance, he will reverse altered budgetary allocation to humanitarian programmes if he wins, or ease visa conditions tightened by the Trump administration for most citizens of African countries.

But, compared to Trump, there’s optimism he will have a better opinion of Africa than the former’s offensive “sh*thole” comment. As a sign of this, it is expected he will be supportive of African leaders of international institutions.

One could expect, for example, he will assent Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment to lead the World Trade Organisation held up by the current administration.

Likewise, the US travel sanctions on the Gambian chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda would likely be lifted.

Closer home, however, policy proposals likely to be adopted by the Biden administration under the Green New Deal might result in some unwelcome impact for the continent’s oil producers.

The Africa Report explains how, under the Deal, large public spending on renewable energy would accelerate the downward trend in solar prices, as would the removal of current subsidies for fossil fuel companies.           

This would precipitate a fall in the price of oil and possibly gas, leading to the phenomena of widespread “stranded energy assets”: oil deposits whose removal is not financially justified.

One can see how this might impact in East Africa, making it economically unviable to extract even before Tanzania has earned a cent from its ample gas deposits in the Indian Ocean, or Uganda and Kenya from their vaunted oil discoveries.    

Back to Trump, he still has his good points as a dispassionate audit of his term by The Economist shows. And, though he never stepped foot in Africa, one would wonder about his popularity in the continent. 

Much of his regard in the continent is anecdotal. But, like in the US, he has had support from evangelical Christians in Kenya and Nigeria, for instance, who were praying for his re-election. Some secular other admirers have been rooting for him.

To put a number to this, however, one could look at a recent survey among youth in 12 African countries including Rwanda that sought to understand their perception on a range of issues.

One of the things the survey wanted to know was which individuals – among them, Nelson Mandela, former US president Barrack Obama and Donald Trump – had the biggest impact on Africa during the youth’s lifetime. 

Six per cent thought Trump had the biggest impact. 12 per cent thought it was Obama. 

Nelson Mandela was seen as the most influential in the lifetime of 55 per cent of the youth.

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