JOHANNESBURG — Three years ago President Obama spoke before the Ghanaian Parliament announcing Africa’s historical and future connection with the United States. Recently the Obama Administration signed a U.S.-Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa initiative which promises to boost economic trade and strengthen democratic institutions.
“So I do no see the countries and peoples of Africa as a world apart; I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world-as partners with America on behalf of the future that we want for all our children”, said Obama during his visit to Accra, Ghana in 2009. The new Presidential policy comes at a crucial time in U.S. foreign policy as majority of Americans are more concerned with the national employment rate than international challenges. The Administration recently returned all combat troops from Iraq, expanded its footprint in the Asian region and has revived diplomatic relations with countries once considered unlikely partners.
The new U.S.-Africa initiative is based on four pillars which include promoting stronger democracies, spur economic growth and investment, advance peace and security, and development assistance.
A centerpiece of the policy targets the youth and women populations to build a partnership which allows gender equality and connecting young leaders between the United States and Africa. Last year First Lady Michelle Obama spoke before a group of young African women in Soweto as part of the White House Young African Leaders initiative and in June this year the State Department sponsored a Young African Leaders Innovation Summit and Mentoring program which pays for the travel and accommodations of African youth to connect with mentorship opportunities in the United States.
At the same time, the strategy seeks to counter regional acts of terrorism and support U.N. peacekeeping missions amongst vulnerable countries to ensure peaceful elections. In 2008 Obama’s win for presidency received a warm reception in Africa with high expectations of an American president born of Kenyan decent. Many critics believe that the Obama White House has done little in comparison to the Bush Administration in encouraging African business development with policies dominated by military interventions. With the recent attention of Uganda rebel leader Joseph Kony by a social media campaign, the United States military sent Special Forces advisors to the region to assist with intelligence and weakening the rebels footprint across the Central African Republic. The new initiative is clear evidence that the United States government sees Africa as a partner to combat regional instability and further invest in its fastest growing constituency which is the youth of Africa.
By focusing on sustainable development and poverty reduction the Obama Administration is finally clarifying its overall Africa strategy with a civil society approach supporting African grass-roots leadership to take the lead in presenting its challenges and opportunities to the world.
For comments or questions contact: Alvin Singh – Alvinrsingh@gmail.com
Photo By: White House/Chuck Kennedy