Discussing Ghana-USA relations with Ambassador Robert P. Jackson
In the roundup to the November 2016 presidential election in the United States of America, many were those who disapproved of the candidature of business magnate and billionaire Donald Trump, labeling him as unqualified and tactless.
This was largely attributed to what some described as his out-of-this-world mannerisms and his critics continually spoke about his supposed ferocious personality, vainglorious pursuits, undiplomatic utterances, inadequate knowledge on key positions, racist sentiments, divisive nature as well as his bigoted values.
“Whether Donald Trump accepts the outcome or not, Hillary Clinton is on course to become the first woman ever elected president of the United States on Nov. 8, with the latest polls and top forecasts pointing toward a third consecutive White House term for the Democrats. With less than three weeks until Election Day, Clinton has a number of plausible paths to the 270 electoral votes needed to secure the keys to the Oval Office, while Trump's always-narrow path to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue appears all but closed.”
That was how Luke Brinker, the former Editor at Salon Politics predicted the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Just like him, several connoisseurs of the game and players within the political space in the United States had called the elections for candidate Hillary Clinton, not giving Donald Trump a dog’s chance of realizing his dream of becoming the next president of the United States of America. And when the going rather got tough for Hillary as a result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) into herscandalous emails, the ‘system’ kept faith with her and remained optimistic of a Clinton presidency.
For all the known and unknown reasons, the world’s attention was focused on the presidential election in the United States with the major markets around the world becoming quite vulnerable as the outcome of the election could largely influence their performance. Whilst Clinton tried hard to remain politically correct with her policies, Trump would not hold back, making all the wildest statements in a bid to achieve what he termed as a quest to America great again.
Against all odds, and shockingly to several people around the world, the underdog emerged the winner. Donald Trump was declared as the president elect, and unfortunately sending worrying signals to certain people, countries, and markets across the globe as a result of his stance on immigration, trade, diplomacy and many more.
I recently had the opportunity to interact with Robert Jackson, the United StatesAmbassador to Ghana at his office in Accra. Certainly, the conversation wouldn’t have been complete without taking a look at what a President Donald Trump administration will look like and the kind of foreign policy likely to be adopted by the United States under the Republican president elect.
Ambassador Jackson who admitted his surprise at the outcome of the 2016 presidential election however stated that the foreign (Africa) policy of the United States of America wouldn’t see a dramatic change under the Donald Trump administration.
“I don’t foresee major changes in our Africa policy, it has not changed much over the last twenty or thirty years. It is based on trade initiatives, a common understanding of defense and humanitarianism and it’s also very much focused on developing African countries and African expectations and we are going to continue to do both. The Millennium Challenge Energy Compact is to go forward, so I expect to see fewer changes in the African policy perhaps than in some other policies”.
The post-election survey carried out by some individuals and organizations outside the United States have revealed that the rest of the world is beginning to perceive the United States as a ‘transforming super power’ and this is as a result of some promises made by the president elect during the electioneering campaign which include the need to reconsider some trade deals, border controls, immigration among others. Though the head of the United States mission in Ghana is not certain about how the world view will be about the United States under President Trump, he is however sure of the approach towards immigration going forward.
“What I can tell you, and what I am quite certain about, is that there will be a major effort to crack down illegal immigration to the United States. Unfortunately, we have over 3,500 Ghanaians in the United States who have overstayed their visas and are under deportation orders. I expect that they will be coming back here sooner rather than later,” he said.
Visa application has become a rather thorny issue in Ghana which several stories by people about their disappointing experiences. This has somehow resulted into a perception held by several Ghanaians that visas to the United States of America are granted based on quotas rather than whether or not the applicant is qualified with all the requisite documentation to be categorized as a legitimate traveler. According to the American Ambassador, that is only a perception which isn’t true.
He added that “as we look at migration issues, we make every effort to facilitate legitimate travels, our visa section is very busy and we issue thousands of visas each year both for tourism and business on one hand and for migration to the United States on the other. Because many Ghanaians have abused their visas, it makes it difficult for legitimate travelers to obtain visas.
“We will scrutinize every applicant, make every effort to be fair but it is a challenging process and it’s not scientific. Also, I want to put on record there are no quotas when it comes to issuing of business visas. On Monday, we might issue hundred visas and on Tuesday, we might refuse hundred visas. We have a lot of students going to the United States, the vast majority of them are granted their visas contrary to some popular opinions.”
About the reasons that account for visa refusal in several instances, Ambassador Jackson said “where it becomes difficult for an applicant is when you are young, single and don’t have strong ties to Ghana, you will be carefully scrutinized. We look at the total profile of the applicant – employment and family ties are very important, and also does the person’s story makes sense in terms of why the person wants to go to the United States.”
The United States of America has over the years collaborated with the Ghanaian government for mutual benefit such as security and also invested heavily in key Ghanaian sectors for human capital development and economic growth and one of this sector is agriculture. Ambassador Jackson highlighted pragmatic steps being taken by the United States Embassy in Ghana to help develop agriculture in the country.
“I think the agricultural sector in Ghana could be better organized and operated under commercial basis to ensure Ghanaians have the food they need and also export more. Right now, Ghana imports a lot of food and when I look at the agricultural sector, I ask myself why is this happening?
“We are investing about US$38million into agriculture and we are focused on irrigation as it is critical in several parts of the country. We also focused on fertilizers as well as looking at how farmers could come together todetermine how to control prices,” he said.
Next year marks the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Ghana and the United States and the United States Ambassador is optimistic of a growing relationship between both countries with an increase in the volumes in trade, growth in exchanges, and a positive impact of America’s investments to the energy and agricultural sectors.