The Occasional African
“I have the blood of Africa within me,” declared Barack Obama soon after he became America’s first black President, as he stopped over in Ghana some four years ago.
This is the kind of eloquent hyperbole Obama has engaged in for years. He is a master of the art of demagoguery.
Many people thought that the Obama Presidency would see more constructive engagement between Africa and America.
A few wise voices gently cautioned that America’s foreign policy really does not change – it has permanent interests.
The American Presidency is a straitjacket when it comes to foreign policy. And as far as America is concerned, Africa is a market for its own goods, and a source of raw materials for its own industries. Oh, and it is also a geographically strategic location for its wars with other regions of the world.
In four years, more Africans have come to realise that Obama is an occasional African. He only touts his ancestry when it furthers America’s agenda. And America’s agenda is often at odds with our development and self-reliance aspirations.
Last month, the US President made a six-day trip to three African countries.
Obama met Senegal’s President Macky Sall, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, and Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete.
Analysts largely dismissed the trip as not one meant to improve Africa’s ties with America, but rather as one meant to counter Chinese engagement with the continent.
China has emerged as a good friend of African governments, and America is missing out on the energy and other deals. China has surpassed the US in terms of trade and investment when it comes to Africa. It is Africa’s largest trading partner, with two-way trade nearly doubling in the last five years to nearly US$200 billion, twice that of the US with the continent.
Russia Today quoted the editor of Pan-African Newswire, Abayomi Azikiwe, saying of Obama’s visit: “They want to, of course, maintain relations with all these different African states and at the same time to edge out the People’s Republic of China that has been gaining considerable amount of influence in Africa.”
China’s President Xi Jinping has visited three African countries since taking office on March 14, 2013 and former Chinese President Hu Jintao went to 17 African nations in a 10-month stretch between July 2006 and February 2007.
During his tour, Xi offered African countries US$20 billion in lines of credit and signed major deals that included a US$10 billion port project in Bagamoyo, Tanzania.
America’s efforts pale in comparison.
Obama’s trip was about promoting America’s economic interests; it had nothing to do with Africa’s interests.
John Kerry, Obama’s Secretary of State, put it thus: “We have to recognise where our future economic interests and capacity may lie.”
And then we had US Trade Representative Michael Froman, who accompanied Obama, saying: “Africa wants investors, especially American investors.”
How deluded can he be?
Under Obama, the number of US drone attacks and extra judicial killings in Africa have increased at least five-fold from the time that George W Bush was President. And W Bush was known as a War President – so what does that make Obama?
According to Foreign Policy US Army Congressional Budget Office, America has an active military presence in 19 African countries. The country has deployed types of drones in Africa. These are the deadly MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper.
“We hear about new drone bases popping up on the African continent in countries whose governments receive aid from the US in one form or another. We hear US arming and training US security forces in a number of states in Africa, then we learn how some of those forces commit horrible atrocities and yet the US does not stop to take a second to look who they empower,” Russia Today’s Gayane Chichakyan recently reported.
An analyst, Emira Woods, says America’s Africa policies go hand in hand with militarisation and resource extraction.
“There is still very much a continuation of programmes established under the Bush administration, programmes like the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) which many see as a militarisation of US engagement with Africa.”
Obama’s government has spent hundreds of millions of US dollars arming and training proxy troops in Africa as well as in deploying militarily in pursuance of its dream of establishing a fully-fledged base for AFRICOM on our soil.
AFRICOM itself has burned US$836 million as it tries to curry favour with African governments.
And Obama’s trip to three African countries was also eye-wateringly expensive.
It is said it cost US$100m, with military cargo planes flying in 56 vehicles – including 14 limousines and three trucks loaded with bulletproof glass to cover the windows of the hotels where the Obama’s stayed. Fighter jets flew in the air space above the first family to provide round the clock protection.
This comes as America sits on a US$16 trillion debt.
Talk about an expensive waste of time!