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Africans Ask: Will Obama Stay Focused On Africa?

Africans Ask: Will Obama Stay Focused On Africa?

President Barack Obama told reporters he left Africa feeling inspired; Africans want to know when he’ll be back and if he’ll remember his promises of aid and more private investment, according to a report in Wall Street Journal.

All along the way on his whirlwind tour of Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania, Obama fielded questions about whether he would remain focused on the region, the report says.

“That’s what all our efforts are going to be about — is making sure that Africans have the tools to create a better life for their people, and that the United States is a partner in that process,” Obama replied.

“We expect him to see a lot, and hopefully then to give more to Africa,” said Mzwandile Khoba, a 46-year-old father of three whose house is a block away from the redbrick home where Nelson Mandela lived for 15 years before going into hiding from the white-minority government in the 1960s, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The question remains whether the good feelings generated by Obama’s Africa tour result in sustained investment and a lasting legacy for him in the region.

Despite a few anti-American protests in South Africa, the meetings and family outings went off without a significant hitch but also lacked a defining moment, the report says.

For the White House, the goal was to re-establish Africa as a priority with a visit focused on a retooled relationship that builds capacity instead of just delivering aid.


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Simultaneous appearances by Obama and President George W. Bush in Tanzania helped spotlight the region, as Obama tried to bring attention to his support of democracy and commitment to leveraging public and private dollars to widen the American share of business in Africa.

Obama’s Africa programs are the natural outgrowth of the work the Bush administration did, according to Mark Green, former U.S. ambassador to Tanzania under Bush. Green now head the Initiative for Global Development,  working on African business and development issues.

“Africa was clearly front and center for the Bush administration,” he said in the Wall Street Journal report. “The Obama administration is building on what the Bush administration did.”

Obama talked about the right things and settled many questions about his administration’s commitment to Africa, said Tanzanian political columnist Jenerali Ulimwengu in the report. But Ulimwengu cautioned Africans to watch out for their own interests as they accept more  investment from the U.S., China and others.

“We are all eager to be noticed by others outside the continent, to be noticed for what we are doing,” he said. “But we also have to be cognizant of the fact that the Americans, and the Obamas, are going to be seeking their own interest in Africa.”