Africa Watch

Trump deserve African middle finger in Davos

Trumpies.jpg

If African countries tell US president Donald Trump on his arrival in Davos to put his finger up his own biological hole that he used to describe them, he will deserve it.

Mr. Trump would have done himself, and his country, a favour if he had read the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report on the eve of its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland this week, which he will attend for the first time.

In that report, which will inform discussion under the over-arching theme of "creating a shared future in a fractured world” emerging, developing countries of the world – of which Africa is a major component – are identified as the drivers of global growth in 2018.

Last year the star at the meeting, which ended on the day that Mr. Trump was inaugurated, was China’s President Xi Jinping. He has since, with his country became Mr. Trump, and the US’s, major competitor on the global stage.

Mr. Ping at the time exploited widely held misgivings about the Trump anti-globalisation- America first campaign, to stake out an alternative vision for the international economy, with China playing a lead role in both trade and fighting climate change.

China seems to be following through on some elements of that promise, amongst other, with the just revealed news that China's Sinopec is buying Chevron's South African assets, including its oil refinery and fleet of over 1 000 Caltex petrol stations in a $900m investment transaction.

With positive news also from Zimbabwe, it could signal the start of a surge in international investment in our part of the world.

It is indeed quite ironical, and might deliver good theatre, that Mr. Trump will be responsible for the closing peach in Davos this year.

South Africa centre stage

There are positive signals that South Africa can take centre stage in a resurgence of investment in emerging economies.

Goldman Sachs, the US- and UK-based investment giant, in a just released report identified South Africa as the “big emerging market story” of 2018.

Amongst its reason, the report sites the possibility of declining interest rates, and a strengthening rand, which has strengthened with 20% against the dollar since November.

Some commentators even predict the possibility of R10 to the dollar in the not too distant future.

“With emerging assets still well bid as we enter 2018, investors are looking for ‘the next big emerging market story’ akin to Brazil in 2016 and Mexico in early 2017. South Africa is at the top of the list of potential candidates, given the market-friendly ANC leadership ... outcome,” the Goldman Sachs report states.

Appropriate middle finger

Against this background it seems appropriate that the first African proverbial middle finger, came from a South African business leader who penned an open letter to president Trump. We reproduce the letter in full below:

President Trump,

We have read with consternation reports of your derisive comments characterising African nations and others as “shithole countries,” and questioning why the United States should allow immigrants from our continent, or other similarly described nations like El Salvador and Haiti. You also stated a preference for immigrants from “countries like Norway”.

The overt racism of these statements is self-evident, and a stain on an office as august as yours.

We are Africans. Like many of our compatriots, we are well aware of the serious challenges faced across the continent – poor governance, unacceptably high unemployment, inadequate public healthcare, and education systems that, while improving, remain below the levels needed for us to bootstrap ourselves out of poverty. Some of these challenges are self-made, many are the inevitable result of centuries of colonisation and its aftermath. Many of us are clear-eyed about our difficulties, and how to tackle them and are doing just that.

But like the US, Africa is so much more than the sum of its shortcomings. It is a vibrant, beautiful continent populated by proud people who daily face their challenges head-on, with dignity and with courage, creativity and ingenuity. Africans, in all our wonderful diversity, look to create for ourselves a more promising future, despite the myriad indignities of the past.

You need only visit countries like Kenya, Ghana, and our own South Africa, to see how more and more African nations are embracing democracy, whilst building lasting institutions and robust economies that can offer their children the exciting opportunities that have been in short supply for so long. Like any region in the world, some of our people look abroad to find their fortunes (or their safe havens), while others stay home to make their way in the world.

The US, along with many of its businesses and people, its churches and civil society organisations, have been invaluable allies in Africa’s far-reaching and widespread reconstruction effort. Many African nations, in return, have been unwavering allies of the US as we work together to tackle common threats and take advantage of common opportunities.

This has been as beneficial to many parts of Africa, as it’s been strategically important to the US. Now, at a stroke, you have cast a pall over that symbiosis by impugning the dignity of 1.2 billion Africans who call this continent home.

One can only imagine how these views have been received by the millions of Americans descended from the slaves, who were herded and sold like cattle, and shipped to the US to build its economy. In insulting the homeland of their ancestors – who had no say in the genocide and atrocity that was slavery – you have again violated the dignity of those with roots in Africa, wherever they are in the world.

Next week, when you arrive at Davos, Switzerland, to meet with world leaders and others in business and civil society, it will be clear exactly what it is you mean when you lay out your “America First” doctrine. Rather than the laudable ethos upon which modern America is built, namely a nation of immigrants free to strive for excellence and success, regardless of their provenance, it appears you want to pull up the drawbridge for people who are not white, and engineer an exclusive, less diverse America.

Our own country’s recent painful history of entrenching racial prejudice in the statute books through apartheid makes this an approach with which we are very familiar. It’s encouraging to us that so many of your countrymen and women, who treasure this ideal of the US – including many from within your own Republican party – are already rejecting your monochrome vision.

We join hands with them, in the same spirit of solidarity that many of your citizens showed in rejecting apartheid and isolating those who sought to entrench racism, segregation and discrimination.

Many of us will be boycotting your address to delegates at Davos in protest against your divisive comments and continued failure to unequivocally apologise. We encourage likeminded peers to do the same. It is our hope, however, that your presence will help stimulate a debate that inspires commitment to a world premised on basic principles of humanity, inclusivity, respect, tolerance and forbearance. An alternative,in other words, to a world where walls, disparagement, and hate dominate the discourse of the leader of the US.

Yours Sincerely,

Bonang Mohale
CEO, Business Leadership South Africa

by Intelligence Bulletin Team

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