Africa: Why Obama’s Visit to Africa Matters

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The negative media images of Africa were an all too common occurrence in the US after the end of the Cold War. From its failed intervention in Somalia in 1993 to the 1995 US Security Strategy for sub-Saharan Africa published shortly after the Rwandan genocide stating that the US had ‘very little traditional strategic interest in Africa’, the 1990s was neither a memorable nor a promising time in the relationship. The ‘dark continent’ appeared set to turn into the forgotten continent in the eyes of most American political and business elites.

This slowly began to change after President Bill Clinton’s historic 1998 Africa tour to Botswana, Ghana, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda that led to breakthroughs such as the passing of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). This new collaborative trading relationship continued in the 2000s under the leadership of George W Bush. USAID and other programmes began to be more focused on key African concerns. The US Congress established the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) in 2004 to focus on smart foreign assistance to combat poverty through good policy, country ownership and results. This was combined with other efforts put forth by the US government including the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), an initiative that helped save millions of lives across the continent.

Now almost 20 years after American soldiers were shown on CNN being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, and almost 15 years since Clinton ordered a cruise missile attack on a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan in response to the bombing of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, President Barack Obama will once again be setting foot on the African continent. The visit to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania from 26 June to 3 July 2013, will take place under a new premise compared to his 20-hour stopover in Ghana in 2009.

Source: All Africa (link opens in a new window)