Trump scare should spur African unity

During the American presidential campaign in the past few months, the world heard with incredulity the misogynistic, racist, jingoistic and parochial statements from Donald Trump. Most people in the US and all over the world treated him as a joke.

Now, that outlandish and hurtful rhetoric he spewed against women, Muslims, refugees and immigrants is likely to be transformed into US government policies and laws. America being the most powerful country on the planet, what its president says and does is a big deal. He has already signed some executive orders to stem immigration into his country and to start the building of a wall along the US border with Mexico to keep the undesirable Latinos out.

In line with his bold declaration at his inauguration that from that day onward, everything he does would be guided by the slogan: "America First", Trump had summoned American companies and ordered them to manufacture their products in the US, give Americans jobs, or risk high tariffs when their foreign-made products enter the US.

His victory in the American presidential election has emboldened right-wingers in Europe, who are now mobilising against immigration, Islam and refugees. Some are threatening the existence of the European Union through departures in the mode of Brexit.

The cacophony of ultra-nationalist and anti-Muslim noises are all music to Trump's ears. He had congratulated the British for Brexit and declared his desire to reward them with favourable trade deals.

Trump is set to turn world diplomacy on its head by shooting from the hip on his Twitter account and his declarations that he would not necessarily respect the one-China policy that has been the cornerstone of the world order for a very long time now.

This is likely to kindle animosity with China and rejig international relations in a big way as China is not small fry on the global stage.

Under Trump, military conflicts and trade wars are more likely than they were in recent years. Under such circumstances, the weaker states and regions of the world are usually a lot more vulnerable. Economically and militarily stronger countries and regions are better able to deal with such sharp turns in world affairs than the weak ones. Questions are already being posed about the implications of the Trump presidency on the African continent.

Considering the fact that Africa is the weakest continent on earth, such questions are highly relevant.

One of the consequences of that weakness is the frequent mass summoning of African heads of state by China, Japan, America and France, a phenomenon that often leaves some of us in Africa humiliated. It dents our collective pride to see our leaders rushing off to the capitals of these countries at the beckoning of their leaders.

The Trump jolt should spur Africa into action, so that we stop being the grass that suffers whenever elephants fight anywhere in the world. We should accelerate economic integration as agreed decades ago, which, however, proceeds at a snail's pace. We should move to kill the dichotomy of an Africa that's a rich continent but with the poorest humans on earth.

Although we have small states on our continent, we have a combined population of 1, 3-billion, which is quite a significant market.

We constitute 16,4 % of the world population and have a combined GDP of about $2263-billion.

However, intra-African trade stands at a paltry 13%, which is one of the biggest anomalies that keep the continent down. Most other regions of the world conduct bigger volumes of trade with their neighbours than we do.

The other weakness is too much dependence on the export of raw materials. Those powerful foreign countries are keen to perpetuate the status quo. They are happy to have us supplying their industries with raw materials which they turn into sophisticated goods and services that we then buy from them at very high prices.

It is quite clear that if we are to climb out of poverty and dependence on others, we should promote manufacturing on our continent. Presently, we produce too few technically advanced products to compete with the rest of humanity.

In order to do that we need to pay attention to our education system at all levels. We should equip young people with mathematical ability, scientific knowledge and engineering skills that will enable them to add value to our economic development. We need to value and empower our scientists more so they may happily remain on the continent and engage in research, development and innovation.

Through their research, we would build a respectable amount of intellectual property and generate patents to register and protect in our own countries. It is not easy to think of serious industrialisation without your own intellectual property and patents.

The goods and services we produce should be traded first and foremost among ourselves.

So, instead of holding our breath waiting to see how Trump would treat us, we should get down to work towards strengthening ourselves for future survival.

Mangena is a former cabinet member and leader of Azapo.