The inauguration, today, of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States of America is expected to herald a new era of global cordial relationship that will impact Nigeria, and Africa, across multiple fronts – from trade to immigration, regional security and diplomatic relations.
Biden’s foreign policy towards Nigeria and Africa could be completely different from what obtained under the outgoing Donald Trump presidency, said Bola Akinterinwa, a former director-general, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA).
This is premised on the fact that Democrats have a history of cordial relationship with Africa.
As such, the next four years of Biden’s administration is projected to have a significant impact on Nigeria’s economy. For instance, the US wars in the Middle East have spiked the price of crude oil with higher earnings for Nigeria while tariffs on Chinese goods have boosted export of some of Nigeria’s commodities.
Already, Nigeria’s economic managers are anticipating a likely higher oil price following the news of President Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion fiscal spending to help the US economy get through the coronavirus pandemic.
“All of these are positive for oil prices, at least in the short to medium term,” said Damilare Asimiyu, head, research/strategy at GTI Capitals.
Most analysts expect the dollar to be the biggest casualty and come under pressure this year, thanks to massive fiscal and monetary stimulus expected to hit the US and the need to cap bond yields.
A lower dollar index usually means higher prices for commodities like oil, gold and other precious metals priced in dollars.
Under President Trump, the US pulled out of several international organisations and treaties including the Iran Nuclear Deal, Paris Climate Change Agreement, UN Human Rights Council, and the World Health Organisation (WHO). This is in addition to entering into a trade war with China.
While Biden may be less overtly antagonistic toward China than Trump was, he has echoed many of his predecessor’s complaints about China’s trade practices, accusing the country of stealing intellectual property, dumping products in foreign markets and forcing technology transfers from American companies.
Most experts said Biden’s newly outlined $1.9 trillion stimulus package looks to have global implications, prompting China’s central bank to call attention to growing external risks to its economy and that of the world at large.
If Biden’s plan is successful in spurring American growth, analysts say it could eventually increase already strong US demand for Chinese products.
Appetite for oil is expected to come at risk if the US and China fail to resolve trade differences, which will cause the global economy to weaken even more. The two world superpowers account for about 34 percent of the global crude oil. The commodity also accounts for 2/3 of Nigeria’s revenue and nearly all of its foreign exchange earnings.
Within just a few days of becoming president, Trump banned immigrants of eight countries, six of which are majorly Muslims – Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen. January 2020 saw Nigeria, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Sudan and Tanzania join the list.
Joe Biden, as part of his campaign promises on immigration, has pledged to rescind that ban. Such a move will please many Nigerian diaspora residents in America, whose family ties have come under pressure because of the ban, especially because they are highly active with Nigerian activities through remittances for sustaining their families, according to a report by SBM Intelligence, an Africa-focused geopolitical firm with extensive research network spread across Nigeria.
The SBM Intelligence report noted that Trump’s regime provided a rather low budget of $60 million for 1,000 men of the United States’ military base in Niger, indicating its below-par priority of Nigeria’s Boko Haram compared to the Middle East’s Islamic jihadists.
More recently, the hostage rescue conducted in the early hours of October 31, 2020 on (northern) Nigerian soil by the US Navy’s Seal Team Six with very minimal collaboration with the Nigerian government signalled many things, particularly impatience with the Nigerian government and its negative perception in dealing with terrorism.
In contrast, Biden’s administration will likely prioritise security defences against terrorism operations across the Sahel region, although France and other proxies will still serve as an intermediary.
“A Biden administration would not differ so much with the departing Trump White House, but one thing we expect would be a return on the emphasis on the respect of human rights in the fight against Boko Haram and other armed Islamist militias in the region,” SBM Intelligence said.
Donald Trump never visited a country in sub-Saharan Africa after assuming office in January 2017, and many observers agree that the president effectively ignored the continent, at best – and insulted it, at worst.
Infamously, Trump’s first meeting with Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari “ended with the US president telling aides he never wanted to meet someone so lifeless again”, the Financial Times reported in 2018 quoting “three people familiar with the matter”.
Under Trump’s Presidency, the US opposed the candidature of Akinwumi Adesina for Africa Development Bank president, following corruption allegations that he was cleared off by a panel of inquiry.
“The US insisted on an independent investigation, which ultimately arrived at the same conclusion” before Adesina was re-elected as president of AfDB.
The US has also stood as a major opposition to crowning Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as director-general for the World Trade Organisation.
In line with SBM’s projections, Biden’s regime is likely to be more peaceful and diplomatic in its relations with other countries including Nigeria, although undoubtedly the interests of the US will remain the top priority before other nations.
In response to the #EndSARS protests in October, for instance, Biden urged the Nigerian government to “cease the violent crackdown on protesters in Nigeria, which has already resulted in several deaths”, “engage in a good-faith dialogue with civil society” and “address these long-standing grievances and work together for a more just and inclusive Nigeria”.
“The United States must stand with Nigerians who are peacefully demonstrating for police reform and seeking an end to corruption in their democracy,” Biden had said.
Analysts say these are pointers to better diplomatic relations ahead.
“I think that we should only be talking about change of government, but continuity in American foreign policy but with a different style of quality management.
“I see continuity in US foreign policy. Whether you have a Republican government or a Democrat government or any other government, US foreign policy is constant in its objectives. It is only its style, the objectives, the technique of achieving the objective that would vary”, Akinterinwa said.
The veteran international scholar further said he expects the US to increase its investment, aid and trade with Africa under the Biden administration and try to dislodge China which had grown to become the biggest investor and aid donor to the continent.
“For us as Nigeria and Nigerians, we should expect Joe Biden to return to international affairs freely negotiated, freely signed, freely ratified and more importantly, freely implemented, by the US Department since Donald Trump came to power.
“Since they did that under Trump, Joe Biden should be expected to revisit what led to misunderstanding between the US and its allies.
“That is basically what we should expect; one major area of interest, we should expect there is no way Biden would not want to weaken Chinese influence in Nigeria. So, the Chinese for instance, have economic success investing in Africa, Chinese are given loans to Africa countries at the rate that the US has not been able to give.
“The relationship between African countries and China is such that the Chinese are increasingly becoming the darling of many Africa countries. This is what these countries don’t like.
Under Joe Biden, it would remain a problem and Biden would want to endear the United States to Africa to do more or better than what the Chinese have been doing.
“So in terms of foreign policy the Chinese would remain an interest and in this case if it would bring Nigeria US closer or not time would tell”.