09 Nov

What does President Trump mean for Nigeria?

2016 will go down as the year of the roll back. In Nigeria, we are going through our first recession in nearly two decades. Our colonisers, the United Kingdom, turned their backs on four decades of European Union membership, Turkey, a major Nigerian trading partner, has slowly started turning its back on the legacy of its founder, Kemal Atatürk, and the United States has turned its back on the world.

How will this affect Nigeria?

First, it will have a psychological effect. Mr Trump’s victory has shown, from the primaries, that being unconventional works, and that you can successfully take on the establishment.

In Nigeria at the moment, the economy is paramount, and the American result is significant in that it is positive for our economy in a roundabout way. The markets do not like uncertainty, and a President Trump, just by his very nature, will mean four years of executive uncertainty coming from a country that has been the world’s stabilising force since 1945. The markets, starting today, will panic. This will weaken the US dollar, putting a little more money in the pockets of Nigerians who have been battered all through 2016 by the naira quaking at the tacit strong dollar policy of the US Federal Reserve. Nigeria’s government remains dependent on oil revenues, and historically, long periods of uncertainty have always been kind to oil prices. If we can find a solution to the systemic issues in the Niger Delta, then expect higher output, which with a return of higher oil prices, will be a win for the Buhari government. What will remain to be seen will be how they will handle that windfall.

Another potential impact is a possible influx of returnee Nigerians who might take the chances of coming back to Nigeria if Trump goes ahead will his plans for migrants or if Americans reading the body language of President Trump become even more openly hostile to foreigners, especially Africans. This influx will present an opportunity for Nigeria to harness such talents and it is encouraged that the Nigerian government builds an active campaign to encourage such Nigerians to come back home and also create the environment for them to bring their skills and experiences to bear.

Politically, for the Buhari government, Mr Trump’s victory is the worst possible outcome. A Hillary Clinton presidency would have continued to provide material, moral and political support for the Buhari government. A Trump presidency, which will not be too interested in issues outside the shores of the US, will place Nigeria, and indeed Africa, very low on its list of interests. This means that should the Buhari presidency make a mistake in some of its political calculations, he will not be able to count on the support of the Americans, which may have proved very critical. In the light of recent electoral decisions on both sides of the North Atlantic, expect the most engaged major Western power over the next four years, with any appetite for direct involvement in our region, to be France. We see China continuing to ramp up its influence in Africa in this vacuum and Chinese support will increasingly become more crucial to Nigerian and indeed African leaders.

On the Boko Haram war, and rising Islamism, President Trump’s disposition towards aiding foreign nations in fighting terrorism is clear. We do not think he will ramp up support significantly, considering his “pay your fair share” stance. If we can cough up the cash, he will be willing to sell the lethal arms Nigeria needs to combat Boko Haram.

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