President Obama needs to unveil a new foreign policy initiative on Africa during his trip to Kenya and Ethiopia or risk going down in history as the worst president for Africa in recent memory.
It would be a shame if the first American president of African descent ranks last in meaningful engagement with Africa when compared to other presidents in the recent past. Although both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton came under intense criticism for doing nothing in the face of genocide and war crimes, they were able to recover somewhat by launching signature initiatives during their second terms.
During his first term, Bill Clinton pulled out of Somalia in a spectacular debacle immortalized in the Hollywood movie Black Hawk Down and then refused to intervene in Rwanda, standing by as tens of thousands were slain during one of the worst outbursts of fratricidal violence in the 20th century. During his second term, however, Clinton launched a series of health and development initiatives that partially mitigated his failures in Somalia and Rwanda. His Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) helped double U.S. trade with the region and triple U.S. exports estimated at $22 billion in 2012.
George W. Bush was excoriated for ignoring war crimes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Darfur. Yet today he’s remembered on the continent for a health initiative known as PEPFAR, which has been credited with saving thousands of lives and transforming the treatment of AIDS in Africa. The Bush administration also played a significant role in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended a brutal 30-year war and led to the relatively peaceful separation of Sudan and South Sudan.
Africans were elated when Obama was elected president of the United States in 2008. Expectations were understandably high after eight years of the Bush administration’s version of gunboat diplomacy. Obama increased those expectations during his 2009 trip to Ghana and Egypt when he promised to transform U.S. relations with Africa and the Middle East.
The glimmer of hope soon faded into the distance as Obama doubled down on Bush’s policies. Like his predecessor, he saw Africa through a national security prism that focused on terrorism and counterterrorism. He expanded the reach of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and increased the use of drones to assassinate alleged leaders of terrorist organizations. The continued militarization of U.S. foreign policy on the continent is reflected in a 2014 initiative called the Security Governance Initiative for Africa, which proposes combining economic and military policies to create a secure environment for U.S. investors.
This continued emphasis on military solutions was mostly ineffective and counterproductive. The NATO-led invasion of Libya, for instance, destabilized the region, turning Libya and Mali into terrorist havens and strengthening terrorist organizations such as Ansar al-Sharia and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. In Somalia, drone strikes and support for regional “peacekeeping” forces degraded the capabilities of al-Shabaab within Somalia but has yet to tackle the task of state- and institution-building. The group continues to export terror in East Africa and exacerbate the region’s refugee problem. Meanwhile, Washington has maintained strong bilateral relations with Egypt despite the brutal tactics deployed against pro-democracy activists by the country’s strongman, president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Click Here: liverpool mens jersey
The Obama administration failed to ride the wave of optimism about African economic development in international business circles. While Obama was focused on the terror threat, other countries were forging strong economic ties with Africa.
China overtook the United States in 2009 as Africa’s main trading partner. Brazil, India, and even Turkey expanded their presence on the African scene, filling the space previously occupied by Africa’s traditional trading partners in the United States and Europe. These countries recognized the opportunities represented in Africa’s economic growth over the last two decades. They appreciated that Africa has the fastest growing economies in the world, a burgeoning middle class, and a youthful educated population. They forged partnerships with states and private sector investors that have revitalized Africa’s infrastructure and stimulated exponential growth.
Despite these setbacks, Obama reiterated his pledge to transform U.S. relations with Africa during his 2013 trip to Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania. His solution seemed to be a shift toward the Clinton administration’s emphasis on entrepreneurship and trade. He touted his administration’s Power Africa initiative to deliver electricity to millions (albeit often via fossil fuels), a scholarship program for young leaders, and continued efforts to combat AIDS and other infectious diseases. He expanded Clinton’s Africa Growth and Opportunity Act and pledged to hold the largest White House summit on Africa ever. Once again this initiative echoes Clinton’s Africa-America summits held periodically during the 1990s.
During the 2014 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the president announced a $7 billion package designed to promote U.S. exports and trade deals and $14 billion in pledges from U.S. corporations. Obama evoked the Africa Rising mantra, praising the assembled heads of state for “embracing economic reforms [and] attracting record levels of investment.” He extolled the continent for its record economic growth, its growing middle class, and youthful population. He promised a new “partnership of equals” focused on African goals and solutions. “Africa’s rise,” he said, means “an opportunity to transform the relationship between the United States and Africa.”
Despite the positive rhetoric, analysts saw the summit as little more than “business as usual.” According to Emira Woods of ThoughtWorks, a technology firm committed to social and economic justice: “If there is business as usual, we will continue to have a situation where people on whose land resources lie will be pushed further and further to the brink, left without health care, housing, education, or any means of benefiting.”
Woods’ caution is confirmed by a comment by a key organizer of the summit, GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt, who let slip the real motivations behind the summit: “We kind of gave Africa to the Europeans first and to the Chinese later, but today it’s wide open for us.” The goal, therefore, is to help U.S. corporations compete effectively in the scramble for African resources. The positive rhetoric about “partnership of equals” and “African goals and solutions” serves as a cover for looting Africa’s resources.
The Legacy Trip