Hon. Folks, they say when America sneezes the whole world catches a cold—implying that what happens in the United States (US) affects the entire world, be it good or bad.
Still, America remains the world’s principal superpower and evidently commands huge global influence, part of which is checking internal democratic governance systems of all countries, including ours.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the 2020 US presidential election drew wide attention and mixed reactions from Malawi and the rest of the world for the simple reason that its outcome will positively or negatively impact the world regardless of who wins the White House between Democrat Joe Biden and Republican President Donald Trump.
Locally, Malawi has benefited a lot from the US which provides about 45 percent of health funding to the government through programmes such as the President’s Emergency Response to Aids Relief (Pepfar) that supports HIV and Aids patients in Africa.
The US also pumps in billions of dollars for education and humanitarian support in Malawi and other countries which are currently benefiting millions of people in the country.
Religiously, the disputed November 3 election divided Malawians with some—mostly the radical Christian folk—supporting Trump’s rightwing agenda because their religious and political convictions are aligned to America’s Pentecostal Churches hence they view him as a beacon of hope for the future.
While Biden’s sympathisers view Trump as being anti-African with many racist traits, among others, his supporters abhor Biden because of his party’s open policies on abortion and its soft stance towards same sex marriages, among others.
Economically, many African countries have benefited from American trade instruments such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) despite a very poor performance by some countries due to underutilisation of the instrument that is due for expiry in 2025.
Washington approved Agoa in 2000 to boost the economies of eligible sub-Saharan Africa countries such as Malawi through exports into US markets without any duty and quotas.
The Act is set to expire in the next five years and all we can long for as Malawians is that the next US President should extend the initiative beyond its expiry in 2025 to enable the country build more capacity and take full advantage of the facility to grow the economy.
Already, Malawi has over the years exported to US markets tobacco, pigeon peas, basketworks and limited amounts of macadamia nuts, sugar cane, textiles and garments although most of these products are now heading to China which has become a strong option for the country’s Agricultural products.
Hon. Folks, then there is an issue of Biden promising to modify the US foreign policy which made Trump a subject of international ridicule following his administration’s lack of interest in multilateralism and its growing appetite for unilateralism.
The US became more inward-looking since 2016 under Trump’s ‘America-first’ policy which led to the slashing down of US support to several key United Nations (UN) agencies that support Malawi and other poor countries with health, trade, democracy, good governance and climate change efforts, among others.
In the past four years, the Trump administration withdrew the US from the UN Human Rights Council and the UN-led Paris Agreement on climate change aimed at reducing dangerous emissions with the US and China being the world’s largest emitters.
He also withdrew Washington from the World Health Organisation (WHO) when the US was the single largest donor to the health agency following a fall out with China on the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Even here at home, the government and the private sector felt the pinch of some Trump decisions to cut US funding to WHO and other UN agencies as well as some American development agencies such as USaid that play a key role in supporting various development programmes in developing countries.
However, in his approval speech last Saturday, Biden, 77, gave a glimmer of hope by offering to re-engage with the world and undo some controversial global decisions made by Trump, 74, once he is confirmed as the 46th US President in January 2021.
Nevertheless, Biden’s pledge to re-engage with the international community and bring America back to globalisation is evidence of his commitment to undo some of the Trump-led policies that proved to be unpopular cross the continent he once branded “s***hole countries”.