I don’t want to talk about Obama’s impending Africa trip too much, as it seems to be more under the purview of a DC in Africa blog rather than Africa in DC. That said, it is a relatively monumental development that is getting a lot of attention, so it cannot be ignored. I’ll try to contribute to the conversation in my own (hopefully innovative) way.
Several progressive groups, including the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), ActionAid, and TransAfrica (collectively they constitute the Africa Advocacy Network, ADNA) will convene at the National Press club at lunchtime this Monday on the eve of Obama’s departure. They will “release a policy briefing book and an open letter statement critical of the Obama Administration’s policy toward Africa and calling for a new approach to trade and investment, militarization, land grabs and more in the region.”
As Emira Woods of IPS notes in the press release, “President Obama’s trip is likely to focus on trade and investment, but actually U.S. policy toward Africa has been driven by militarization and land grabs (ed – I’d say that’s more true in some places than others).”
Meanwhile, Todd Moss, who I critiqued in one of my more popular posts, is asking “What’s on the Deliverables List?” for Obama’s trip. Right off the bat, he buys into a Washington Consensus. His opening sentence states,”for good or ill, high profile visits by the President of the United States always come with some major new announcements, AKA ‘deliverables’.” He then lists some economic options on the table for Obama that “require no new money.”
Moss, didn’t hesitate to mince his words when criticizing ZANU – PF in his recent Congressional testimony. I wish he would have had the same courage to challenge some of the basic tenants of US African policy.
I agree with the ADNA team. The US supports many autocrats, such as Blaise Compaore and Yoweri Museveni (until his death Meles Zenawi was another great example) who may be friendly to international businesses, but have governance policies hostile to equitable development.
To conclude on an Africa travel note, our ongoing support for those leaders makes Obama’s reluctance to visit Kenya during his Presidency look ridiculous.