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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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.


Comments 5 of 17



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