WASHINGTON — With control of Congress still undecided a day after the U.S. midterm elections, African leaders and political analysts are closely watching for signs of what impact the outcome could have on the continent.
African analysts say their biggest concern is how this contentious poll could affect U.S. standing around the world — especially in African nations that have seen democratic backsliding.
There are also economic concerns over how the U.S. responds to rising inflation around the world. Wednesday trading showed that African markets were closely watching the impact on the most popular U.S. export: the dollar.
On a more personal level, communities in the U.S. and in Africa celebrated wins by American candidates of African origin, and bid goodbye to two retiring senators who took a deep interest in the continent.
U.S. democracy matters abroad
African political analyst Ebenezer Obadare told VOA that policymakers on the continent were most focused on possible fallout that could affect Washington’s global standing.
“Political polarization in the U.S. — and the subsequent ripples — has deepened anxiety about the prospects of democracy globally,” said Obadare, an analyst from the Council on Foreign Relations. “For one thing, many African policymakers are worried that, depending on the outcome, the U.S. may not be in a situation to pursue the goals outlined in the recently launched U.S. strategy towards sub-Saharan Africa.”
In August, the Biden administration launched that strategy saying it “welcomes and affirms African agency and seeks to include and elevate African voices in the most consequential global conversations.”
Obadare says he’s more worried about the U.S. losing its own voice amid divisive political rhetoric or politically motivated unrest.
“Right now, much more than material support for transitioning countries, Africa needs the U.S. itself to remain democratic,” Obadare said. “There is genuine worry that if the elections get messy or are inconclusive, the U.S. might lose its gravitas and the moral authority to intervene in the political process in Africa and other developing regions.”
The midterms saw wins by multiple candidates of African origin, which were welcomed in both the diaspora community and on the continent.
Those include at least eight female Somali-American candidates who, along with one Somali-American man, won national and local-level races in Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio and Maine; at least eight Nigerian-American candidates who won in Georgia and the District of Columbia; and others with close ties to the continent, such as Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse of Colorado, who is the son of Eritrean immigrants.
The most prominent of those victors is Somalia-born Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, who was handily re-elected to her seat in Minnesota’s 5th district.
Her success abroad stands in stark contrast to her counterparts in Somalia, such as Fawzia Yusuf Haji Adam, the only female presidential candidate who contested the nation’s May 15 election. She got only one vote — her own.
“This is a victory for Somali women in the diaspora,” Adam said. “I congratulate them, I encourage them, and we are proud of them.”
Goodbye to some Africa hands
The midterms also saw the departure of two retiring Republican senators who have taken an interest in Africa: Senators Jim Inhofe, of Oklahoma, and Rob Portman of Ohio.
Inhofe recently concluded his final congressional trip to the continent, in which he visited Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda. He said he was confident that the continent would continue to receive attention from U.S. lawmakers.
“It is bittersweet to visit Africa one last time before my departure from the U.S. Senate,”Inhofe said, urging continued U.S. military presence in East Africa.
“The presence of U.S. military across Africa, while small, means a great deal to our friends and is a worthwhile investment for the United States. In each country, it was clear that a strong and robust relationship with the United States has helped spur economic growth and regional stability across the continent. I have faith that my colleagues in the House and Senate will continue the U.S.-Africa friendship long after I have retired from the Senate.”
Overall, said Mvemba Phezo Dizolele, director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, this election won’t negatively affect U.S. engagement. He cited what he described as “strong supporters of Africa” in the committees on Foreign Relations and Appropriations, such as Sens. Chris Coons, James Risch and Lindsey Graham.
“Overall, the midterms will not change much with regard to U.S. engagement with Africa,” he said. “Africa will continue to command a bipartisan engagement in the foreseeable future both in the lower chamber and the Senate.”
Harun Maruf contributed to this report.