What Africa Wants From Obama

Americans will head to the poll on November 6 to vote for a new president. As incumbent President Barack Obama is seeking another four years in office, JONATHAN NDA-ISAIAH, in this piece, examines what Obama’s victory will mean for the African continent

October 28, 2012, Nigeria (Leadership) — When Barack Obama was elected American president four years ago, there was joy across the streets in most countries in Africa as most Africans felt one of their own is now in the White House. There were celebrations in the streets of Nigeria as Obama’s victory was supposed to signal a new dawn for Africa because Obama is of African descent but four years after, Obama’s administration have not done anything worthy of note for the African continent.

In the last presidential debate which focused mainly on foreign policy, Obama failed to mention anything on Africa as this is an ominous sign for the continent if Obama wins another four years. The problems of the continent are majorly economic growth, corruption, poverty, wars and the rise of terrorism in some countries like Nigeria.

In the last four years Obama visited Africa just once- his visit to Ghana in the early days of his administration and since then he has ignored the continent. His predecessors even had more impact on the continent. Bill Clinton visited Africa during his eight-year stint as American President and also launched African trade law that helped boost Africa’s trade with America.

George W. Bush, a Republican, visited 10 African countries during his eight-year tenure, he introduced a hugely successful $15 billion HIV/AIDS program and a malaria campaign in 15 African countries and its on record George Bush had the biggest impact on Africa among all the American Presidents. After the programmes and policies of George Bush towards Africa, most Africans felt Obama would do more for the continent but he only introduced a 3 billion dollar project to fight hunger in developing and third world countries.

According to statistics, most economies of African countries are growing and America has not keyed into that by establishing strong trade relations in the continent. Countries like China and Russia are gradually establishing strong ties with countries in the continent and edging out America’s presence in the region.

What Obama needs to do is to increase America’s investment  in Africa as this will strengthen trade relations between Africa and America and will in turn boost the economy of the continent which in a way will create jobs thereby reducing poverty in Africa. Corruption is still the order of the day in most African countries while terrorism is gradually on the increase.

Obama’s administration policy of strengthening peace and democratic institutions in Africa has fallen short as his foreign policy is geared towards countries like Iraq, Afghanistan,  Syria and Pakistan much to the detriment of Africa. It has been known that past American governments support some dictators in the continent and many hoped it will change with the coming of Obama but it has been business as usual.

Obama’s Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, has more plans for Africa, he outlined that Africa’s road to stability and prosperity lies through a robust private sector economy, increased trade, and good governance. He also promised that if he wins, his administration will encourage and assist African nations to adopt policies that create business-friendly environments and combat governmental corruption.

Such policies will lift those nations and their people, boost economic ties to the United States, and provide greater certainty to U.S. and international investors. Greater market access across the continent for U.S. businesses will bolster job creation in Africa as well as in the United States.

As Obama seeks for another four years in office, most Africans are no longer enthusiastic about his presidency as his last four years had no impact on Africa. If  Obama wins, Africans expect more from his administration, if he can strengthen democratic institutions in the continent, strengthen trade and investments which will boost the region’s economic growth, fight for peace and security and  reducing the rise of terrorism in the region, Obama will go a long way in redeeming his image in Africa.