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What Africans Expect from Obama…and what they are Likely to Get

Last Updated: 6/16/2008 7:33:10 PM

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Senator Barrack Obama has generated a huge wave of excitement in Africa with many expecting favourable policies should he become president. ClickAfrique looks at some of things they are expecting to happen and then what is most likely to happen.....

Barack Obama has already made history and could be set to make some more.
Barack Obama has already made history and could be set to make some more.

There is a lot of excitement in Africa over US Senator Barrack Obama, the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party. In Uganda, a boulevard has been named after him. In Kenya, the popular Senator Beer, now nicknamed “Obama Beer” is drunk in his honour and in Nigeria, rebels in the volatile Niger delta region are willing to declare a ceasefire should he request it.

Obama, the son of a Kenyan immigrant and a white US woman recently made history by clinching the ticket of his party to run in the upcoming presidential elections in November, the first African-American to do so in a major American political party.

The excitement is somewhat understandable because of his African connections, and it is this link on which many are hoping that should Obama win the November elections, that the US foreign policy in African would be a lot more favourable that previous administrations.

Some analysts agree that Obama’s relationship with Africa would be mainly symbolic and would not necessarily mean a prioritisation of issues of poverty, AIDS, trade and conflict resolutions in Africa.

"An Obama presidency may strengthen symbolic relationships with Africa, but it is not automatic that any real, tangible benefit would arrive to Africa from an Obama administration” says Mark Schroeder.

ClickAfrique now takes a look at some of the key issues Africans are looking for Obama to address and what the likely outcome is if he gets elected.

According to his website the Illinois senator “believes the United States needs to lead the world in ending this genocide, including by imposing much tougher sanctions that target Sudan’s oil revenue, implementing and helping to enforce a no-fly zone, and engaging in more intense, effective diplomacy to develop a political roadmap to peace.”

While what Obama is proposing might be effective in bringing an end to the conflict in Sudan, it is unlikely to get implemented without the help of the Chinese. China is Sudan’s biggest trade partner and continues to invest heavily in the country’s oil industry. The Chinese government has come under heavy criticism for not only it economic involvement but its political ones as well. China sees Sudan as a key ally in the region and would like to ensure that still remains the same

However the Chinese government last week had some strong words for Sudan, asking it to take the necessary steps needed to bring peace to the region. Many however regard it as a PR gesture to save the Chinese from any embarrassment relating to the subject that might break out during its hosting of this year’s Olympics games.

Verdict: Without the help of the Chinese, which is very unlikely to happen, Obama might fail to deliver on this one

DR Congo
The humanitarian situation in eastern Congo is one of the worst in the world. Over 5 million people have died since the war started in 1998, the majority from lack of access to food or health care, making it one of the deadliest war in the world today. Though a historic peal deal was signed six months, terror continues to stalk eastern Congo.

In the Senate, Obama wrote and passed legislation to promote stability in the Congo and revamped U.S. policy in the Congo to include a commitment to help rebuild the country, develop lasting political structures, hold accountable destabilizing foreign governments, crack down on corrupt politicians, and professionalize the military. The bill also authorizes $52 million in U.S. assistance for the Congo.

There is little doubt that this is an area that Senator Barrack Obama knows about and has actively participated bringing about much needed peace, stability and economic development in the war torn country. There little evidence to indicate, he would not continue to do so if he becomes president.

Verdict: Looks like we are on to a winner here, expect more of the same active role by Obama

Rising Food Prices
Rising food prices are hitting countries all over the world, including the US. However a majority of the countries most vulnerable to the rising prices are in Africa. When asked in an interview in May, 2008 about the rising cost of food around the world, Senator Obama responded by saying

“Well, look, we, we've got a serious food problem around the world. We, we've got rising food prices here in the United States. In other countries we're seeing riots because of, because of the lack of food supplies. So this is something that we're going to have to deal with. There are a number of factors that go into this. Changes in climate are contributing.”

”The, the fact that in a lot of countries, you know, we've had problems getting food supplies to poor countries because the wealthier countries have reduced their stockpiles in, in serious ways. And so there're a whole host of reasons why we're seeing problems with food supply. There's no doubt that biofuels may be contributing to it.”

”And what I've said is, my top priority is making sure that people are able to get enough to eat. And if it turns out that we've got to make changes in our ethanol policy to help people get something to eat, then that's got to be the step we take.”

It is clear, that while Obama understands the root causes behind the rising price of food, he has failed to articulate exactly how he would tackle, even though he knows it is something he would need to address urgently.

However as long as oil prices remain high, the US ethanol policy is unlikely to change any time soon, especially as the rise in food prices in US have been modest when compared to those experienced in some African countries. While a changed US policy on ethanol might be beneficial, it is important to remember that other factors such increased demand in India and China, a worldwide bad harvest, the surge in the cost of fertilizer and transport due to the jump in oil prices also play key roles in the increasing price of food and they would be outside Obama’s control.

Verdict: Expect some help but he is no miracle worker.

Niger Delta
When in May, the armed group in the Niger Delta, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), announced that it would consider a request from Barrack Obama to end its campaign of violence in the oil rich region, his campaign quickly came out to deny the story.

His campaign released a statement saying "Senator Obama has not made any recent comment on the situation in the Niger Delta. The Senator does advocate an end to the violence in the Delta region and urges all parties to establish a process for addressing the relevant issues and grievances in order to create the conditions for peace and economic development,"

It is clear that Obama does not want to involve himself it want many clearly still regard as an internal problem for the Nigerian government and one that is still at a stage they should able to manage.

Verdict: Unless the situation in the delta region becomes far more worse than it is, prepare for just more similar statements from Washington

Improved Trade for Africa
Unless the trade terms are going to benefit the American people, then expect business as usual from the White House. Even if Obama wanted to push policies that would mean better trade terms and conditions with America’s African trade partners with little or no conceivable benefit to the American people, it is most likely to get throw out in Congress. Such a defeat would spell a political disaster for Obama, so it is unlikely he is going to even attempt to do so.

Verdict: The audacity of hope? Well that is all Africans can do about it, hope


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