Africa-USA: Seeking To Reinforce Existing Ties
Under President Barack Obama, Africa has witnessed moments of exhilaration and apprehension.
The euphoria across Africa that marked the advent of Barack Hussein Obama to the Presidency of the United States of America in January 2009 was perceptible. Many perceived in his Kenyan background a plus for the entire continent, with better prospects, given that he is the first African-American to ever occupy the White House.
Yet, one has to be careful in analysing ties between a Super Power like the USA and Africa given that most, if not all countries on the continent, are still developing.
In addition, as an American politician who is the 44th President of the United States, although he is the first African American to hold the office, his priority had to focus on US interests and any other continent or country only came in depending on how such presence affected US foreign policy, making it inevitable to think of positive and negative outcomes.
With eight visits to seven African countries during his two-term presidency, the picture could be made clearer by citing the nations visited. Barack Obama effectively came to Egypt on 4 June 2009; Ghana on 11 July 2009; Senegal from 26-28 June 2013; Tanzania from 1-2 July, 2013; South Africa from 28 June to 1 July, 2013 and again from 9-11, December that same year during late President Nelson Mandela’s funeral. He was also in Kenya from 24-26, July 2015 and Ethiopia from 26-28 July 2015.
Apart from coming to the continent to ensure stronger bilateral and multilateral ties with various countries, the US leader from 4-6 August 2014 assembled 50 African leaders in Washington D.C. for a summit meeting that focused on trade, investment and security on the continent. Amongst other key outcomes was the reiteration of the Power Africa programme launched in 2013 by President Obama.
It brought together technical and legal experts, the private sector, and governments from around the world to work in partnership to increase the number of people with access to power. With the idea on course, Africa may have to wait for 2030 to achieve universal electricity access, with funding for the project estimated at $300 billion. And the latest of the Obama efforts towards getting the best out of Africa-America relations has been the Young African Leadership Initiative, YALI. On 3 August 2016, he met with those privileged to be part of the movement.
As expected, not all the policies of the Obama Presidency were pleasing to Africa. One of the bitter pills swallowed by most Africans would for long remain the assassination of Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and the bloodbath that continues to ensue even five years after. The US-enforced independence of South Sudan has equally been another nightmare of the Obama diplomacy in Africa, given the thousands that have died and those who continue to be homeless today as a result of freedom that never was for the latest African nation.
Somalia that he met as a war-torn country has not evolved and the much-heralded African-American President has been unable to bring stability to a country that continues to be a shame for the continent, with many qualifying it as a failed State.
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