Obama second term: What it means for Africa

 
A Kenyan reading a newspaper in Nairobi on Wednesday 7 November 2012

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Some people on this continent expected more from the son of man who grew up herding goats in a village in western Kenya.

President Barack Obama made only one, cursory trip to sub-Saharan Africa during his first term, and at the time made it fairly clear that he would not be smothering the continent with attention.

"Africa's future is up to Africans," he said in Ghana, in a speech that quietly acknowledged the limitations of American influence in a region that now trades more with China than the US.

So how much will change in Mr Obama's second term?

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If Kenya pulls off a free and fair vote, expect a fairly prompt visit to Nairobi by Air Force One”

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That question was, perhaps understandably, barely mentioned in an election campaign that focused on pressing domestic issues and the Arab uprisings.

In his victory speech, Mr Obama again made only passing reference to "a decade of war" and to "people in distant nations… risking their lives right now just for a chance to argue about the issues that matter, the chance to cast their ballots like we did today".

Behind the scenes US diplomacy will no doubt continue to be furiously in demand.

No 'Obama doctrine'

In the first term, the focus was on headline-hogging conflicts in Ivory Coast, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan and even a close-run election in Zambia.

The start of the second term is likely to be preoccupied with more of the same: International efforts to remove al-Qaeda-linked rebels from the north of Mali - by force or negotiation or both - and efforts to ensure that Zimbabwe and Kenya avoid repeating the violence that wrecked their last elections.

If Kenya pulls off a free and fair vote, expect a fairly prompt visit to Nairobi by Air Force One.

So far, there is no sign of a grand "Obama doctrine" for Africa - and perhaps that is a good thing given the diversity and complexity of the continent.

Mr Obama has left it to others to warn about the dangers posed by an insatiable China.

But his second term may give him an opportunity to move away from the distorting, "war on terror" preoccupations of Mali and Somalia, and focus on the broader issues - trade in particular - that he raised three years ago in Ghana.

 
Andrew Harding Article written by Andrew Harding Andrew Harding Africa correspondent

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 17.

    The biggest drawback in most of Africa is corruption. Without it, there can be perhaps a slow but steady progress. If Obama know how to fix corruption in distant places, it is the only help they need. Anything else is a waste of time and resources.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 16.

    It sounds strange for Africans to expect Obama to do something for them. Obama is an American and by any standard will pursue with vigor any thing that will help America prosper. His policies will not be different substantially from the past presidents.
    African countries need to look beyond aids and other handouts, starting investing in themselves and trade across borders, reduce corruption.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 15.

    Africans are merely proud that one of their own is the leader of the most powerful nation in the world. They understand that the destiny of the continent is the hands of their 'elected' leaders. It is insulting to insinuate that Africans expect Obama to change Africa for them.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 14.

    Some have posted that Obama is not African - how so?? I was born and have lived in the UK my entire life - but my parents are Japanese. So does this not make me Japanese, or Obama not African??

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 13.

    Africa shouldnt aim to be like the rest of the world with the same political system, but what i the right system? i haven't heard it yet....Tribalism gets a bad rap for promoting conflict, but at least it has a way of dealing with internal problems that people respect, elders have a role that has yet to be replaced by a political system.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 12.

    Obama is not an African President then Why he should care about African People? May Be we should ask African white Vice President! http://mycontinent.co/vicepresident.php

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 11.

    There was hope that the President would repair the injustices caused to Chagossians who were deported from their homeland and the excision of the Chagos Archipelago from the territory of Mauritius to make place for an US Military base on the island, but justice doesn't seem to happen with the Obama administration.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 10.

    Not convinced western meddling in African affairs has had any positive impact - at best the West tends to hand pick puppets for their own commercial benefit ( e.g. Tsvangirai etc). Africa's biggest problem is its lack of self belief. Obama should stick to solving issues in the US; however, I hope his personal achievements will inspire generations of black people to start believing in themselves.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 9.

    Benghazi assaut exposed shortcomings in Obama admin's ability to secure diplomatic missions & act on intelligence warnings. Benghazi episode, described by several US officials, points to a limitation in the capabilities of the American military command responsible for Africa, including the North African countries swept up in the Arab Spring.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 8.

    More Benghazi(s), more chasing al Qaeda, essentially nothing but droning & possibly assasination.
    @ 3 hrs after Benghazi attack, Pentagon issued urgent call for quick-reaction forces, including elite Special Forces training in Croatia. When Special Forces arrived, Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens & 3 other Americans were dead.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 7.

    Obama is not an African, and has no duty towards an Africans just like an alms-giver has no duty towards a beggar. Africa's future depends on no one else but the Africans and the choices we daily make or leave unmade. The wretched conditions in most African countries persist because of the corruption that we have, by our own indifference and self-denial and even actual participation, allowed.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 6.

    As a white Zimbabwean, who was born and raised in Britain, but now lives in Tanzania, I have seen the run up and reaction to this election and found it astonishing how much impetus people here put on the black president of America. What we need here is for Tanzanians to vote for someone to run this country better, not put faith in someone who's already said African's future is up to Africans!!

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 5.

    We Africans know that western styl democracy is like a myth. Over the decades we put our hope is western doctrines only to find out that they were only put in place to fleece us of our resources. Worldbank, IMF destroy our economies. With China the partnership is fairer.More countries have seen more economic & infrastructure growth and a paternerd relationship rather than a bullied one

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 4.

    One thing Obama could do is review the US attitude to resolving the transition in Madagascar. The US is lagging behind the EU and others with what appears to be a rather hostile stance which is far from helpful. The US is calling for more democracy while at the same time refusing to help fund fair and transparent elections; how contradictory can you get?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 3.

    Dependancy on Foreign Aid has become the Norm in African Politics & the Aid we get is back in the Doners Bank Account deposited under corrupt Leaders.Who is elected & where should not matter to Africa but what we Africans should do is to struggle to form a Government of the People, by the People & for the People. With the Rule of Law & self reliance we will catch Fish & not beg for IT.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 2.

    Billions of dollars have been poured into Africa through aid projects. The result? Nothing. The money disappears into offshore bank accounts. America and the rest of the civilized world is begining to realize this. We cannot expect Pres Obama to throw more resources into Africa until we sort out our problems of corruption, laziness, and appalling violence. Until then, there is no hope for Africa.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1.

    One thing must be made clear, Obama is the president of the U.S and not africa . The expectation that Obama needs to pay homage to his fatherland by becoming the manna is not only wrong but pathetic . Africans must initiate there own way out of the political mess the likes of Mugabe. Museveni ,Biya ,Jammeh and the rest of the thieves who call themselves leaders perpectuates .

 

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