As the Trump administration mull plans to extend its travel ban to more African countries in days to come, economies in the continent might shift focus to a more appealing trade and friendly partner in china.
According to atqnews.com, the administration plans to add seven countries to a group of nations subject to travel restrictions, including Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, along with others in Africa and Asia, according to administration officials who have seen the list, reports The Wall Street Journal.
The new restrictions would apply to travelers and immigrants from Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania. The countries wouldn’t necessarily face blanket bans on travel to the U.S., but could have restrictions placed on specific types of visas, such as business or visitor visas, administration officials said.
It also reported that data from the US travel and tourism office shows a 21 per cent drop in the number of Nigerians travelling to the country, the largest global drop-off in visitors to the US.
As of 2019 October, 34,000 fewer Nigerians travelled to the US compared to the previous year. After a sustained period of growth between 2011 and 2015, the number of Nigerian visitors to the US started to plateau in 2016 until the big drop-off last year.
The dip in Nigerian visitors to the US followed a string of visa clampdown measures by the Trump administration.
The US had placed the restrictions citing security concerns.
The plan to extend the visa restriction to other African countries might not be in the best interest of the US economy.
According to an article in the washingtonexaminer.com, unless President Trump wants to tank the strong economy he’s helped build, he needs to put the brakes on this travel ban.
And to be clear, the Trump administration’s nebulous concerns about terrorism and other security issues from these countries are wildly overstated.
Actual analyses of immigrant screening procedures have shown that vetting failures are incredibly rare and that the odds of an American being killed by a foreign-born terrorist are minuscule. Although terrorism has been a problem in some of the countries on the expanded travel ban list, there’s no reason to suspect that our existing vetting procedures are inadequate. So we’d be disrupting tourism, business, and family visits for hundreds of thousands of people — all because of overblown security concerns.
It’s just not worth it, especially because Trump would be hurting the economy by expanding the travel ban.
By clamping down on business visas, the president would disrupt the economic relationship between the United States and these African countries. Over 140,000 business and pleasure visitor visas were issued to nationals of Nigeria, Tanzania, Sudan, and Eritrea in fiscal year 2018 alone. And Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy, so restricting business travel to the U.S. is pretty clearly an economic stumble for us. Furthermore, the administration’s announcement comes as dozens of African nations prepare for the new African Continental Free Trade Area to go into effect in July, which will create one of the largest markets in the world. We’d be willfully forgoing a serious boon to U.S.-Africa trade by hitting these countries with new travel restrictions.
Along those same lines, ending the (widely misunderstood) diversity visa lottery program, as Trump wants to do, would mean denying thousands of well-educated immigrants from these sub-Saharan African nations.
In 2018, more than 4,500 Tanzanians, Eritreans, and Sudanese students won diversity visas, along with thousands of other sub-Saharan Africans. (Nigeria isn’t eligible because it already sends high numbers of immigrants to the U.S.). Losing out on these immigrants in the future would only hurt us because diversity visa lottery winners tend to be more educated than the average American or immigrant. They experience lower unemployment rates than other immigrants too. So when they’re denied the opportunity to live and work here, we all lose.
Our economy isn’t the only thing that’s endangered though — U.S. soft power would be too.
Officials have repeatedly identified the diversity visa program as an excellent goodwill-building tool around the world, which is something we could certainly use more of. But when we end diversity visas for countries in sub-Saharan Africa, we’re handing more power to China.
China already has cast quite the net over Africa. In recent years, government and private investment from China in Africa has exploded. China is Africa’s single largest economic partner and has invested tens of billions in infrastructure, manufacturing, and communications in countries throughout the continent. Meanwhile, Chinese surveillance technology has been made available throughout Africa, including in fragile and authoritarian states.
Beijing has also established a military presence on the continent with a base in Djibouti. As China builds up African economies, infrastructure, and state capacity, the U.S. loses more allies.
The Bush administration made investment in Africa a priority, and the U.S. enjoyed widespread support throughout the continent as a result. But this attention declined under the Obama administration and continues to stagnate under Trump, leaving the door open for China to emerge as Africa’s top partner. Trump already ceded soft power in Asia when he withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, so losing more of it in other regions is a massive risk.
All of this is needless. We’ll gain nothing from this proposed travel ban expansion. Instead, we’ll just lose out on enormous economic opportunity and soft power in the region — to China’s benefit.