Little enthusiasm for US presidential elections in Africa

Little enthusiasm for US elections in Africa

Deutsche Welle

Barack Obama’s election as US president in 2008 was widely welcomed in Africa. That enthusiasm has largely given way to skepticism. Many Africans today do not trust either candidate’s policies towards Africa.

As US President Barack Obama and his rival, Republican candidate Mitt Romney, prepare to compete in elections set for November, many people in Africa remain lukewarm.

When Obama, the son of a Kenyan, won the polls in 2008, there was much song and dance across the continent. That time has long passed. Sympathies for both candidates in many African countries are low.

“Most people here believe that, since the Obama administration, led by an African-American, has failed in its promises, there is little hope that Mitt Romney can do any better”, says DW correspondent Sam Olukoya in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital.

The nomination of Mitt Romney as the Republican flag bearer has been greeted with skepticism across the continent.

Romney’s plan for Africa 

The Republican candidate’s priorities towards Africa, however, do not differ much from those of Obama.

Romney’s website lists bolstering economic ties and improving the rule of law, as well as increasing security and respect for human rights, as some of his priorities for Africa. 

Some African markets are increasingly interesting for the US. Nigeria is a case in point. US exports to Nigeria shot up to 4.8 billion dollars (3.8 billion euros) in 2011, an 18 per cent increase from the previous year. Wheat, vehicles and refined petroleum products are the main exports.

On the security and human rights front, Romney intends to increase US support to end long-running conflicts such as the one in Sudan’s Darfur region. He also promises to pressure the remaining despots who abuse their own people, and to weaken terrorist groups that threaten US interests. 

Consistent policy towards Africa

Analysts expect little change in US foreign policy towards Africa, should Romney win the elections.

“US policy towards Africa is remarkably consistent from one administration to another”, former US ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, told DW. 

When Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, a wave of excitement swept across Africa.                                                

There was wide optimism that the first Afro-American President of the US would play an important role in sorting out Africa’s problems.

During the 2008 campaign, Obama had outlined his priorities for developing an Africa policy that included taking action to stop “what US officials have termed genocide in Darfur, fighting poverty, and expanding prosperity”.

Unfulfilled promises

But a cross-section of Africans believe that Obama hasn’t done enough to fulfill his promises.

“Obama so far has not demonstrated any sympathy for Africa, if anything he has left most African countries in disunity,” says Dr. Sylvester Odion-Akhaine of the Lagos State University in Nigeria.

However Ambassador Campbell says Obama’s African paternity was over-emphasized by some of his critics in Africa. ” Obama is the US president and not an African president,” he told DW.

“His administration has spent more time and emphasis on Africa. For example Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spent ten days in Africa and this shows Obama’s commitment to Africa,” Campbell added.,,16207695,00.html


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Mitt Romney Africa

African countries hold great promise despite the many years of conflict, poverty, and misrule that followed their emergence as independent states. With abundant natural resources, an increasingly educated and dynamic population striving for a better life, and governments embracing political and economic reforms, Africa is now home to some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

While Africa currently represents less than two percent of global economic activity, that will change. Global demand for Africa’s natural resources will grow. Demographics indicate that by 2050, Africa’s population will double to two billion and one in four workers on the planet will be African. These trends, when coupled with robust economic growth, point to the emergence of stronger economic actors on the world stage and greater partnership opportunities for the United States. While Africa is changing, global competitors like China are taking advantage of these changes and are rapidly outmaneuvering the United States by making strategic inroads throughout the continent and gaining an economic and political advantage over the United States.

At the same time, a number of challenges in Africa still remain unresolved. Extremism and piracy emanate from Somalia. Brutal or inept regimes in places like Sudan, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are causing misery for their people. Islamist terrorists in Nigeria and the Sahara threaten vast regions, and some have forged troubling alliances with drug smugglers, human traffickers, and other transnational criminal networks.

Obama’s Failure
After holding great expectations for the Obama administration, our African partners have been deeply disappointed. President Obama has failed to exercise American leadership to mobilize the international community to address pressing issues, seize rising opportunities, and strengthen liberty and prosperity throughout Africa. While the initiative begun by the previous administration to help South Sudan achieve its independence was completed during President Obama’s term, the President has failed to resolutely confront ongoing atrocities by the dictatorship in Khartoum. And it has failed to strengthen a once promising alliance with South Sudan, allowing other actors like China to begin supplanting U.S. influence and advance a value-free “development” model to their own economic and strategic benefit. Somalia remains mired in anarchy with al-Qaeda linked terrorists controlling a significant portion of the country. Mass rapes and human rights abuses continue in Congo.

Mitt’s Plan

Bolster Economic Ties And The Rule Of Law

The United States must regard Africa not as a problem to be contained, but as an opportunity to be embraced by us and our partners on the continent. Recognizing that Africa’s road to stability and prosperity lies through a robust private sector economy, increased trade, and good governance, a Romney administration will encourage and assist African nations to adopt policies that create business-friendly environments and combat governmental corruption. Such policies will lift those nations and their people, boost economic ties to the United States, and provide greater certainty to U.S. and international investors. Greater market access across the continent for U.S. businesses will bolster job creation in Africa as well as in the United States.

Lead On Issues Of Security And Human Rights

Mitt Romney will also provide the leadership required to help resolve Africa’s long-running conflicts, pressure the remaining despots who abuse their own people, and weaken terrorist groups that threaten U.S. interests and those of our partners. He will pursue strong cooperative military and diplomatic relationships to ensure security interests on the continent and in the seafaring trade routes off its shores. These relationships will help strengthen the capacity of African nations and regional organizations to foster stability, engage in peacekeeping, and confront terror.

Mitt Romney will lead on the issue of Sudan’s ongoing atrocities. He recognizes that far too many Sudanese for far too long far have been the victims of war crimes and other atrocities committed by the government in Khartoum and its proxies. Continuing a history of violence and genocide, Khartoum has committed a range of atrocities in border regions since the independence of the Republic of South Sudan. It has incited and armed rebel groups with the apparent objective of undermining the new country. It has stolen hundreds of millions of dollars in oil, which is Sudan’s chief source of income. In both Darfur and in the border areas, Khartoum has too often been an impediment to the flow of humanitarian assistance. Governor Romney is committed to protecting innocents from war crimes and other atrocities, ensuring that humanitarian aid reaches those desperately in need, holding accountable those leaders who perpetrate atrocities, and achieving a sustainable peace for all who live in Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan.

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