So much has been said about President Barack Obama’s week-long visit to 3 African countries, namely Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania, and this is adding my voice to the din.
This will be Obama’s second visit to Africa since becoming president of the United States of America. This visit is coming on the heels of one made by the Chinese President Xi Jinping to Africa in March.
It can be gleaned that the three countries (I’m not too sure about South Africa) were chosen as destination to emphasize their ‘Democratic’ credentials as ‘nations with whom America is well pleased’, to the consternation of Africa’s most populated (Nigeria) and Obama’s paternal country (Kenya), who are been snubbed for the second time running.
Under this Obama presidency, Africa and her issues appear to have been relegated to the back seat. A reality that has shocked most Africans considering the huge support and goodwill he enjoyed from Africans during his first term. Many Africans (even) naively thought they would be allowed in the United States visa free (something even a relative of Obama from Kenya couldn’t get on any kind of platter).
They had expected him to dwarf the achievements former presidents like Bill Clinton (who championed the African Growth and Opportunity Act, AGOA which offers tangible incentives for African countries to continue their efforts to open their economies and build free markets; this act signed into law on the 18th of May, 2000 is due to expire under the Obama administration) and his predecessor George W. Bush who continued Clinton’s AGOA and channeled millions of America’s dollars into The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief, PEPFAR, (a historic commitment and by far the largest by any nation to combat a single disease internationally) that made available HIV prevention kits as well as life saving/prolonging Anti-Retroviral Drugs, ARV’s to those already infected in Africa.
Obama’s promise of a better deal may have fallen on deaf ears, as the hiatus he created economically all this while has been considerably filled mainly by China. Many Africans are also aware that he would soon enter his ‘lame duck’ years bringing to non-effect many of the things he would have intended to do, especially facing the very determined Republican-controlled congress bent on thwarting any attempt he makes at building a legacy that will outlive his tenure in office.
His promises however have generated interest among Africans and created new talking shops as regards the Leadership and mentorship programs for African students and young enterpreneurs as well as the pledging of billions of dollars to countries like Nigeria to build and improve their power infrastructure. Hopefully, these will be achieved before he leaves office, nay before he becomes a Lame Duck President.
Obama’s visit also generated some controversies on the social side following his stance on gay and lesbian unions (beginning with the calls he made to some Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community, LGBT couples while on board the ‘Airforce One’, after the Supreme Court of the United States, SCOTUS repealed the Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA) where he adviced Africans to decriminalize gay unions, for which many African rulers (most notably Gambia’s Yayah Jammeh) who were already nursing the pain from his snubbery on the one hand, lurched upon to deride him. Indeed, many Africans, religious and civil society groups saw the whole visit in that light, making so much noise about the ‘non-issue’ amongst other things they could’ve been paying attention to, like ‘corruption’ which has continued to stunt Africa’s growth.
It is left to be seen if this much vaunted visit will amount to no more than another jamboree with little or no positive effect on the lives of ordinary Africans, to whom Obama stands as a symbol of everything that could go right with the Black Man.
On the sidelines, Obama paid a visit to the relics of slavery in Senegal, then a second visit to Robben Island but did not visit the ailing Madiba (with whom he shares a first, as both are the first black presidents of the United States and South Africa respectively) in hospital even though he shared some time with members of the icon and living legend’s family.
This piece will be incomplete without mentioning the fact that from his outing in Africa, it is obvious that he still maintains his oratorial skills with which many Africans were once again wowed evidenced by quotes they posted on social networking sites of his many ‘quotables’ from speeches made across the lands and places he visited during this August visit.