America goes to the polls in a couple of days. There is a lot of anticipation on who is going to become for the next president and most importantly take over office from Barrack Obama. Obama being the first ever black president of the United States was a huge deal for Africa – Question is though – Did he deliver according to expectations? if so – how? I was able to ask a few young people from different countries in Africa what they thought about that the Obama – Africa Legacy if any. Also, I asked them what their expectations for the next US head of State was. Very interesting ideas – you definitely want to go through these opinions.
Chambi Chachage, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
Obama gave a lot of hope to people of African descent all over the world, in the sense that globally African had been at the bottom, they had been marginalized historically in the economical and political set up starting from slavery to colonialism and then balance trade dynamics in the world, so if you look at all the major global leaders in economy and politic – almost all of them are not there. For the first time having a black president coming to power, in arguably the most powerful nation, there was that sense of belief, pride. In that regard, there will be a positive legacy that here is someone who is as black as Africans who managed against all odds to get up there – also the racism in the US that is one aspect. But then there is also a negative aspect, the US is still a global military power and in a way, Obama hasn’t really managed to change that. The US is still a bully, bullying people all over the world. In as much as we Africans had a black person over there, he hasn’t been able to shift the global dynamics and again what can one person do? Even some of the things that they are trying to achieve in Africa like the power lighting in Africa with Akon – If you look at it, it is really a corporate affair – all these American Companies coming on. For the case of my country Tanzania – how on earth does a small place like Ubungo a suburb in Dar’ Es Salaam where I grew up manage to host Hilary Clinton, Barrack Obama , within a space of 5 years? Bill Clinton, George Bush- all of them have been coming. It makes you wonder what is special about this place. Is it really about lighting Africa, empowering Africa because so far that project has not really moved. But I believe for the young black people in the US, and elsewhere in Africa, the Obama moment will always be significant. I was following the hashtag Obama and kids you can see that the level of inspiration. that youngster gave even in my case I have always had a mixed feeling with the US but in the case of Obama – but with Obama it has been very different – in some instances you had to sympathise with him – no American president has suffered the kind of racism that Obama has suffered. So I will always that feeling that here was someone black, inspirational, but again he was leading a nation that is spearheading military occupations and corporate incursion into our places.
My expectations at the moment are not so positive because the candidates that the US got as TOP candidates have got a lot of problems. Trump as you can see is sexist and racist. The situation – I mean the future of America seems very bleak for me. He is coming from the corporate world where whatever he is going to do if how comes into power will be along those lines – corporate imperialism, racism, sexism. They will always tend to go hand in hand in marginalizing a lot of people who don’t fit into the mainstream. Hilary seems to be relatively better than Trump but again if you look at all these major projects that I was talking about, the ones that are have been spear headed in Africa and elsewhere- Hilary was instrumental in them. She came to Dar ‘es Salaam to push for the American companies to get this power – electricity deal in Africa. Off course the underlying argument is that they want to light Africa but if you are lighting Africa why does it have to be American Companies? and then all these scandals that her campaign has in terms of undermining someone who seems to be more progressive , I think all of them are casting some kind of a shadow. Some people remember her husband’s reign as a lively force compared to the republicans, so there are some people who hope maybe Hilary will be more like that. But based on these scandals that are coming out and what she is doing when she was Secretary of the state, I think that she is going to be just an iron lady who will probably make us see more of the ruthless side of America.
Judith Owigar, Nairobi Kenya
I think that Obama did a lot for Africa towards the end of his term. I am not so much of an American policy person but he could have done more. He didn’t because he had to first be more American than anything else. During Obama’s first term when he was running for presidency – Michelle would not talk about black people or slaves, just like he could not come in Kenya in the first term because he had an election to win. I don’t think he did as much as Bush or Clinton. Remember that Clinton is called the first black president. Obama had to play politics and that’s what he did. I wouldn’t say he was a good president for Africa – maybe for our image but for many policies – I am not that sure.
I don’t think Hilary will do much for women, it will work against her. I think though that Hilary will do a lot for Africa – but I don’t think she will do as much for women. Because she is white she can now do things for Africa – but for women she can’t be seen to be playing the women card – so we shouldn’t expect that much. If it is trump –there will be a world war in Africa – He doesn’t care much about Africa but about winning. For Resources
Kudzai Mubaiwa Harare, Zimbabwe
My feeling is that he that has done well for us, not so much from a policy or foreign policy perspective because I don’t know too much about that. But I can speak in as much I am aware regarding young people, I think one of his most phenomenal legacy issues was starting up the YALI. Coming from Zimbabwe I have seen a whole lot of colleagues who actually deserved it and benefited from it – some have gone on to do great things – some of them have gone on to do what they were doing but they have new networks and a new outlook on life. I think that the fact that he actually took time to focus not so much on Africa’s current people but on the future – the youth, I acknowledge him.
EXPECTATIONS: If it is Trump I have no expectations , actually none for Trump. But if it is Clinton , I know that being a woman probably a mother she will be sympathetic towards the cause of many nations and also having been the former foreign policy official, she probably will be more sensitive to how the youth can contribute and probably make good in some spaces and also make amends for the work Obama did not do.
Maurice Ongala Nairobi, Kenya
President Obama has left a legacy of escalated youth and women empowerment and more liberal US foreign policy in Africa. During his eight years in the White House, he has been on record as the US president who visited African countries the most time and signed the highest number of trade agreements as well as initiating various development initiatives between African and American entities.
Perhaps the most remarkable of these is his Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) whose primary objective is to identify, mentor and connect outstanding young African leaders in the areas of business and entrepreneurship, civil society and public management. The YALI program has three notable components namely Mandela Washington Fellowship where young African leaders go to top US institutions for at least 6 weeks to learn how their systems work; regional learning centers across Africa to identify and incubate ideas from young Africans; and a continent wide network of YALI alumni who create and connect each other with opportunities regionally. President Obama will also be remembered as an astute champion for women empowerment and involvement in development, governance and democratic processes in Africa.
Any government is an entity in perpetuity. Gains made by the administration of President Obama and particularly, those leveraged for African states, ought to be continued with a renewed impetus in order to achieve their long term objectives.Therefore, I expect the next US president to continue opening the borders for Africans and indigenous African companies to seek and find opportunities to trade within the US. I expect the next president to be one who is passionate about African youth empowerment and who views women as equal members of the society and is ready to invest in empowering them to achieve their maximum potentials.
Kwesiga Eshban Kampala, Uganda
Besides the feel good effect of having a black man in the white house, going by appearances and Media cover Clinton and Bush appear to have done more for Africa than Obama. The Clinton years were characterized with massive aid, Bush made efforts to advance AGOA – Obama on the other hand mainly had YALI to show for himself. While YALI is a great platform to build the next generation of leaders, it’s watered down by the Obama administration’s actions in Libya – in which the openly backed rebels to remove the legitimate president of a functional country. Obama might have given the Americans Bin Laden’s capture but Libya (what was arguably one of Africa’s strongest States) is now a territory with 2 governments and 4 militia.
What to expect from the next President – – – because America has an institutionalized and entrenched foreign policy, it doesn’t matter whether it’s Clinton, Bush or Obama, the next American President will continue with the tradition of keeping close ties with Israel, Saudi Arabia and only using Africa to advance American interests.
Daniel Ominde Kisumu, Kenya
I think we as Africans were overambitious when it comes to our expectations on what his presidency would translate to us. We sort of forgot that his first loyalty was to the American people. Having said that, I think during his term we have seen him support entrepreneurship in Africa through initiatives such as “Power Africa” that has seen increased amounts of African households connected to the electricity grid. This will go a long way in spurring the growth of small and medium enterprises in small cities and rural areas thereby improving living standards.
He has also tried to improve food security in parts of the continent through “Feed the future” initiative that targets developing countries. As regards to trade he has pushed for the realization of Agoa treaty with the aim of having a fairer balance of trade with African countries. I expect the next president of the US to improve of some of this foundations that Obama laid as far as their relationship with Africa is concerned. Especially by supporting growth of local industries and possibly encouraging American companies to manufacture in Africa where we have a lot of skilled labor which is still largely unemployed.
Philbert Aganyo Nairobi, Kenya
The US under President Barack Obama was more reluctant with direct benefit support. Significantly there was a reduction in HIV/AIDS & Malaria Management Support as compared to George W. Bush – who actually is credited for a vibrant Anti-Malaria Campaign in Africa. Thus I might say his only contribution was Healthcare by steering a lesser percentage of USAIDs support towards ARVS n Malaria Drugs. Under Obama with regards to Africa the only significant support is the Young African Leaders Initiative, in all its 3 facets which are the 4 Regional Learning Centers, Mandela Washington Fellowship & the YALI Networks Online Community. Military & Infrastructure is almost zero and was more clandestine in nature (The African Command in Djibouti).
The Next US President should focus more on Trade and Investments. Opening up the US markets for more African products – Textiles at EPZs, Coffee & Tea while also supporting directly more Entrepreneurs. A Program like YALI but with a focus on independent though in regard to ideas and areas that directly impact Africa should be opened up. Of course stringent VISA rules should also be loosened especially for those going to Study and return home.
Markos Lemma – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
He is one of the best presidents that ever happened – but for the US. He was good for Peace Revolution and Climate Change but not for Africa. For example Bush was really one of the worst presidents but he did an amazing job when it came to controlling HIV/AIDS. In general, Obama did incredibly well but not for US. YALI is a PR machine – like they didn’t want to get more connected but rather Americanize everyone – which was one of the reasons that I didn’t participate. He did increase work with AGOA – but that was already pre- negotiated by another president.
When it comes to the future – it is really tricky because you have to choose from worse and worse. I don’t think Trump will win, so I think that it will be Hilary. She might actually be more active in Africa as well because she has been working in the foreign policy but that’s it. There is this Trade Partnership that I hope that she will promote. The US- Africa relationship is overshadowed by the Chinese – Africa relationship. And the reason is, the Chinese are very focused on infrastructure and very tangible development agenda – I think the US needs to tap into that.
Koffi Sename – Lome , Togo
I didn’t really follow Obama’s presidency. It was a good thing to have a black president. It gave confidence that black people have the capacity to lead etc. I didn’t see anything really change all over the world becasue of him. He was just another US president with more sway, more style. He was a sexier president especially with his family he brought a new way of seeing presidents.
I don’t expect anything from the United States president. He/She is not the president of the world.
Njoya Tikum, Addis Ababa – Ethiopia
Unimpressed. Obama saw Africa as a second thought and had misguided and disoriented partnerships. There were no trade agreements between Africa and USA under Obama. His focus on trade was in Latin America and Asia but not Africa. Trade Agreements are necessary to allow African petite traders and farmers attain same benefit as their competitors in the Global north. So in a nutshell, Obama cannot really claim a legacy in Africa beyond YALI.
The next president must clear a route for more Trade Agreements with African countries such as AGOA, eliminate restriction on Subsidies for African Farmers etc. What we should be asking for is leveling of economic playing field for Africa traders wanting to do business with USA and limited military intervention on the continent. That is the level of engagement that I hope for. Time for handouts have passed as shown by Obama’s approach to Africa