By Louis Ibah
Mixed feelings have continued to trail last week’s election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States of America (USA) after a gruelling 18 months of presidential campaigns.
Just as global economic and political leaders have been commenting on the likely implications of the Trump presidency on their economies, Nigerian stakeholders are also expressing divergent views on what the next four years hold for US-Nigeria socio-economic relations given some of the hard-line postures of the new president on several key issues, including immigration, trade, economy and foreign policy.
Rightly, some commentators are already apprehensive that Trump’s posturing could further distance developing nations like Nigeria from the world’s number one economy if his campaign promises are executed to the letter.
For Africa’s largest economy, many have argued that its long standing trade and commercial relationships with the US spanning decades and which have seen multi-billion dollars US investments in Nigeria’s oil and gas, technology, security, transportation, aviation, agriculture and telecoms sectors means the Federal Government must court the new helmsman at Washington DC.
Available records, however, reveal there are more than four million Nigerians living in the US who are also making yearly remittances running into several millions of dollars to the Nigerian economy. Among the many initiatives of the US government is the AGOA initiative, which targets massive exports of Nigerian agricultural produce to the US in addition to extending millions of dollars in aid to support rural development projects across various states of Nigeria.
It is against this backdrop that stakeholders in Nigeria’s economy have called for more robust economic relationship between the country and US under a Trump presidency.
Director General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Mr. Muda Yusuf, who told Daily Sun that “the Trump victory would create a lot of shocks around the world” with a likely shift in trade, economic and immigration policies, urged the Nigerian government to endeavour to maintain stronger relationship with the US under President Donald Trump.
“Because of the huge size of the US economy, anything that happens there is bound to affect the rest of the world. Investors would be very cautious with Trump as president and this could slow down the economy of most nations, including Nigeria,” said Yusuf.
For his part, Lukman Otunuga, a research analyst with FXTM, who corroborated Yusuf’s position, risk aversion has already swept across the financial markets during early trading hours after the unexpected Trump presidential victory soured investor risk appetite.
“Global sentiment was dealt a frightening blow with most major stocks sold off savagely as uncertainty repelled investors from riskier assets. With risk-off sentiment amid the Trump victory becoming a dominant theme across the board, stocks markets could be left depressed for prolonged periods,” Otunuga said.
But how exactly should Nigeria position itself to benefit from Mr. Donald Trump’s reign as the President of the United States of America?
Although Trump had hinged his campaign on very conservative or exclusive policies with persistent threats to discard major trade agreements, which angered so many around the world, especially his avowed stance to rid the US of immigrants, many stakeholders in Nigeria’s economy, however, agree on the need for the country to take quick steps to foster stronger economic ties with a Donald Trump-led US government.
President Muhammadu Buhari is hinging the resuscitation of the Nigerian economy currently under a recession on the diversification of the economy into the non-oil sector. That aspiration, many analysts have pointed out, may never be realised without the cooperation of the US or rather, with a hostile diplomatic relationship with the US.
“There is every need to reach out to Trump despite his slur and denigration of Nigeria and Nigerians during his campaign for the Presidency,” said economic analyst, Mike Obokale, who is also a member of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO).
“We will always need the US; we have millions of Nigerians in the US working and going to school. And if we are diversifying, we will also need the foreign direct investments from the US in the years ahead in various sectors of the economy. This calls for greater cooperation and understanding between the two countries,” he added.
Indeed, for decades, until the discovery of shale oil in the US about 10 years ago, the US has remained the highest importer of Nigeria’s crude oil.
Director General of the Institute for Management Consultant (IMC), Prof. David Iornem, who spoke to Daily Sun shortly after the announcement of Trump as President, said, however, that it will be in the interest of the economy of Nigeria for President Buhari to reach out to him.
“I know that the majority of Nigerians would have preferred a Mrs. Clinton Presidency but the American people have spoken, they have elected their leader and we have to respect them,” said Iornem.
Iornem who described the ongoing diversification effort as a long term project, said it was very obvious that the dividend would only begin to yield during the reign of Trump as America’s President.
“Our leaders must embrace him (Trump) and while identifying with what he stands for, use all diplomatic means to build a relationship that in the long term will be beneficial to the country,” Iornem added.
“Already, we have a huge trade deficit with the US and we are diversifying the economy towards producing goods which we have comparative advantage over some countries and which we will be exporting to other countries like the US,” said Iornem.
US Deputy Assistant Secretary, West Africa, Mr. Peter Barlerin, also reiterated the same sentiments recently when pledging that the US would support President Buhari’s diversification efforts, noting that it would make the non-oil sector more attractive to America and the rest of the world.
“We believe that such efforts would be helpful for the economy because it will make Nigerian exports more attractive to the US and the rest of the world,” he said.
“A number of sectors in Nigeria are promising; there are lots of promising exports potential in services industry, fashion industry, agriculture and other sectors. We want to increase both US import from Nigeria and US export to Nigeria,” the envoy added.
President, Aviation Round Table (ART), Mr. Gabriel Olowo, while lauding the cordial trade and investment relationship that has existed over the years between Nigeria and the US said local investors in Nigeria’s aviation sector should not be too excited with a Trump presidency.
Olowo said in last couple of years, activists in the industry had been clamouring for the abolition of the Open Skies Agreement (OSA) between Nigeria and the US. He said under the Trump presidency, he does not see that dream coming to fruition, not with Trump’s resentment for African countries.
“The US is driving the OSA and Nigeria is a signatory to it and we are not in any way benefiting because we can’t reciprocate and they are not paying for BASA,” said Olowo.
“I don’t see that philosophy changing under Trump because we will not be able to take the measures to reciprocate the open sky agreements,” he added.
David Aworawo, a lecturer with the Department of History and International Relations, who spoke as guest on a Channels TV show, said because the US would continue to give aids to its allies, it was important for countries like Nigeria to continue maintaining its relationship with the country with Trump as president.