Obama in Africa by ProQuest

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Amb. Herman Cohen (Ret.)



Obama in
Africa

America’s President Sends Africa
a Message of “Tough Love”
                                                                                                                                                        37
                                                                                                     Change Africa can believe in. Photo: White House




B
        ARACK Obama rightly chose                decline, not a single European or                  moving toward a new focus on agriculture




                                                                                                                                                        journal of international peace operations | volume 5 | number 2 | september-october 2009
        Ghana as the one country to visit        American government spoke frankly to               and food security. This policy shift has
        on his first trip to Africa as           them. Nobody said: “Your excellencies,             been long overdue. Skyrocketing food
President. Among the majority of African         you are making terrible errors in your             prices in 2007 and 2008 shocked African
countries that do not enjoy the dubious          economic management.” The reason was               governments out of their complacency
benefit of oil and gas wealth, Ghana             obvious. So soon after independence, the           about food security. They had forgotten
stands out as a role model for both its          European and American leaders did not              that 40 years earlier, Africa was one of the
sincere transition to democracy, and its         want to be accused of neocolonialism.              world’s major food growers and export-
positive approach to market-based                                                                   ers. Bad farm policies caused production
economic reform.                                 After 1980, the World Bank and Interna-            to go down and imports to go up. The
                                                 tional Monetary Fund started to play the           situation will not improve as the food
In a major address to the Ghanaian               role of ‘bad cop’ by insisting on macro-           consumption of over two billion Chinese
Parliament, Obama laid out his admini-           economic reforms in return for debt                and Indians expands to reflect rising living
stration’s Africa policy. He spoke in            rescheduling and concession lending.               standards.
subtle terms, but he was clearly indicating      These programs helped stop the eco-
two major adjustments in U.S. policy.            nomic free-fall for most African coun-             Obama’s determination to shift focus in
                                                 tries, but did not alter the existing political    Africa to food development instead of
First, Obama is the first American               and economic barriers to substantial and           food aid will not be easily realized. There
President to speak the truth to African          sustainable growth.                                is no political constituency in the United
power. After the euphoria marking the                                                               States for agricultural development
end of colonialism in the early 1960s, the       In effect, Obama told the Africans that            abroad. On the contrary, the American
newly independent African governments            the time has come to stop blaming their            farmer does not want to promote
adopted economic and political policies          problems on the external world –                   competition. But Obama is the first
that guaranteed failure in their quest for       colonialism, capitalism, great power               American President to give agriculture a
sustainable economic development. The            rivalries. The Africans have to look to            head of steam, and he deserves support
nationalization and politicization of major      themselves for both the reasons and the            for his initiative.
enterprises, accompanied by the adoption         solutions. The United States cannot want
of the African ‘one party’ state, guaran-        economic development more than the                 There is a third subject that Obama did
teed negative economic growth for the            Africans; Africa has to start pulling up its       not enunciate directly, but is there if one
first 20 years after independence.               own socks.                                         reads between the lines: the subject of
                                                                                                    Africa’s chronic dependency on foreign
As the first wave of African leadership          Second, Obama sent a signal to Africa              aid, an issue that clouds the future of
plunged their countries into economic            that America’s foreign aid policy is
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                 The author is a former Assistant Secretary of State for Africa and is President of Cohen & Woods International.
                                                                                                                                                                                                           agriculture. But until the agricultural
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                                                                                                                                                                                                           sector regains the
								
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