How America’s next president will have a direct impact on Ghana

Whether it’s Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or any of the other leading candidates, as president they will have a dominant role on the global scene, which will have a trickle down effect on every Ghanaian.

Whoever wins the 2016 USA election will have a direct impact on every Ghanaian, for better or worse, a local media expert says.

Lecturer in communications at the University of Ghana, Dr Etse Sikanku, has been closely following the US elections, and says whoever wins will be responsible for foreign policy and America’s relationship with Ghana.

Whether it’s Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or any of the other leading candidates ruling the United States, as president they will have a dominant role on the global scene, which will have a trickle down effect on people here in Ghana, Sikanku says.

Sikanku has worked as a political reporter in both Ghana and the USA, where he covered two presidential primaries.

While now watching from afar, he says this year’s election will be very different because there’s no Barack Obama, “but we do have a Hillary Clinton who is very well known within the political and public sphere.”

Reluctant to offer predictions on who will win and what it could mean, Sikanku says looking at what each candidate has said on immigration and foreign policy issues so far can give an indication of their overall ideologies and stance on issues.

As an example, Sikanku says if the new president does not want the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) to continue, this will affect businesses here, particularly if someone was exporting due to this agreement.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is a United States Trade Act enacted in 2000, and has since been renewed until  2025. The legislation significantly enhances market access to the US for qualifying Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries, of which Ghana is one.

AGOA builds on existing US trade programmes by expanding the (duty-free) benefits previously available only under the country’s Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme.

Through it, Ghana has exported millions of dollars of products to the USA, and been able to import products from the USA in return.

The US has stated cocoa and cashew exports from Ghana to the US went up by 300 percent within a period of 13 years under the AGOA initiative, which would have had huge impacts through Ghana.

And as far as immigration goes, US statistics show from 2004 until 2013, numbers of Ghanaians in the USA who have obtained lawful permanent residence has increased from 5,337 people in 2004, when George Bush was president, to 7,610 in 2008, his last year. Under Obama, from 2009 the number was 8, 401 in 2013, (the most recent number available) there were 10, 265 Ghanaians given permanent residency.

The number of Ghanaians naturalized in the USA has also increased significantly under Obama. Under Bush in 2004 there were 3, 577, under Obama, in 2009 the number was 4, 819 and in 2013 5, 105.

However, those Ghanaians caught to be illegally in the country have increased under Obama, in 2004 there were 135 people this jumped to 422 in 2009, however, in 2013 the number dropped to 272.

What the future may hold for Ghanaian's immigrating to the USA illegally under a new president would also be speculation, but Sikanku says if you looked at Republican Donald Trump’s stance on immigration “he is somebody who believes in protecting America...he believes he is going to build a high wall along the border. He is going to make sure that America is more strict on illegal immigration. At a point he said illegal immigrants, including those from Africa, will be deported.”

Sikanku says asking if Trump’s beliefs would affect his relationship with other countries, like those in Africa, is important.

“He is always looking out for American ideals and American values and things that would be to the advantage or benefit of America. Will that affect the relationship? for instance the trade policies America has with Africa.”

If Trump won, Sikanku would want to know what would become of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGAO).

Trump’s comments so far gave an indication on how open or not he will be “based on the fact that he seems to have a more protectionist policy when it comes to America’s relationship with the rest of the world.”

This calls into questions whether the flow of aid to Ghana would be at the same level, Sikanku says.

Trump is competing again Ted Cruz, who Sikanku finds has a conservative perspective to foreign policy.

Cruz has said America should play a leadership role in the world but perhaps more limited.

“He believes America has a moral responsibility to lead the world but he doesn't necessarily mean that it is America’s business to be everywhere every time and be all things to all people.”

Sikanku says Cruz may have a relationship with Africa or the rest of the world, but it might not be as deep or as far-reaching as other candidates.

Third leading Republican candidate Marco Rubio is “very charismatic” and compared to the other Republican candidates he believes in American exceptionalism, wanting to take a leadership role in the world.

“He is someone you would imagine would be more vested in international affairs than Ted Cruz. He is not totally against foreign aid, he believes if it is possible it is America's responsibility and they should help around the world with countries who need it because that is how Americans have always been.”

Rubio could have a more participatory approach when  it comes to his relationship with Africa, Sikanku says.His Hispanic heritage means he “might understand the Third World a bit more or seek to forge more relationships with Africa."

However, the candidate with the best ties and understanding of Africa is democrat Hillary Clinton, who maybe the most “Africa-friendly” candidate, Sikanku says.

As a former first lady and the current Secretary of State she knows global issues.

“Clinton is one of the most qualified people to run for presidency, she has a lot of experience and expertises. She understands the continent, she has a relationship with the continent.”

The other leading Democrat is Bernie Sanders, who is making huge waves across the United States running against Clinton. Sikanku says Sanders’ progressive ideals will help young people and minorities.

But it is outgoing president Barack Obama who has had the closest ties with Africa.

Sikanku did his PHD on Obama’s afrocentric aspects, and found he believed in communalism, which was a base belief in Africa.

Sikanku is currently working on a book that will explore Obama’s afrocentrism.

A lot of Africans were inspired by what Obama achieved.

Sikanku says there was a lot of relevance for Africans in the last two elections, “a lot of people had a lot of hope with Obama because of his race, his relationship with Africa, [and] his Dad [being from] Kenya.”

And Ghana was the first Sub-Saharan African country he visited as president.

“I think he has tried to keep a good relationship with the continent. It is a lot easier and different because of his background. He is the only person who is able to come to Accra and say boldly that Africa needs to fix its house, that Africa needs to fix its institutions.”

Sikanku found Obama tried to inspire good governance and better democracies through Africa.

He had also been focused on entrepreneurship in Africa as well as focusing on young African leaders through the Young African Leaders Initiative, which some Ghanaians had been involved with.

But, these are Obama administration policies, so their continuity depends on the desires of the next administration.

And that will be revealed on November 8.

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