Thursday, July 09, 2009

Obama in Africa: President Obama speaks to about U.S.-Africa Policy

The pan-African news distributor allAfrica Global Media* ( is publishing a number of articles and editorials regarding President Obama’s planned visit to Ghana on July 10-11, 2009. Last week I read an exclusive interview granted to Charles Cobb Jr., Reed Kramer, and Tamela Hultman by U.S. President Barack Obama and another interview given by his point-man for U.S.-Africa policy, Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson (Bureau of African Affairs). I found that the interview with Assistant Secretary of State Carson went into more detail on U.S.-Africa policy under the Obama Administration than what the President had to say in answering questions posed by the journalists. Links to both interviews and embedded video files are provided at the end of this post.

There has been a great deal of speculation by experts, pundits, and journalists about Obama’s Africa Policy (and long term U.S.-Africa policy in general) over the past 24 months, therefore it is great to have an opportunity to hear directly from the U.S. president and his top diplomat for Africa before tomorrow’s historic visit to Ghana. Here is an excerpt from the interview with President Obama:
Washington D.C. – July 2, 2009
Africa: U.S. Wants to Spotlight 'Successful Models' And Be An 'Effective Partner' - Obama

Washington, D.C.Barack Obama makes his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa as president of the United States next week, following a trip to Russia as well as to Italy, where he will participate in a meeting of industrialized nations known as the G8. AllAfrica's Charles Cobb, Jr., Reed Kramer and Tami Hultman went to the White House to explore President Obama's views on Africa in advance of his visit. The interview took place in the Blue Room.Charles Cobb posed the questions. - We asked visitors to our site,, what they might be interested in with respect to your policy. And as you might imagine, the responses are everywhere: conflict resolution, development issues, trade issues, et cetera. But they and we have one immediate question: How is it that you happened to pick Ghana as the first place to visit in sub-Saharan Africa?

President Obama - Well, part of the reason is because Ghana has now undergone a couple of successful elections in which power was transferred peacefully, even a very close election. I think that the new president, President Mills, has shown himself committed to the rule of law, to the kinds of democratic commitments that ensure stability in a country. And I think that there is a direct correlation between governance and prosperity. Countries that are governed well, that are stable, where the leadership recognizes that they are accountable to the people and that institutions are stronger than any one person have a track record of producing results for the people. And we want to highlight that. - And I assume that you'd like to see a lot more 'Ghanas' in Africa. And part of your policy would be, I assume, to encourage that.

President Obama - Absolutely. - How?

President Obama - Well, part of it is lifting up successful models. And so, by traveling to Ghana, we hope to highlight the effective governance that they have in place.

I don't think that we can expect that every country is going to undergo these transitions in the same way at the same time. But we have seen progress in democracy and transparency and rule of law, in the protection of property rights, in anti-corruption efforts. We have seen progress over the last several years; in some cases, though, we're also seeing some backsliding. In my father's own country of Kenya, I'm concerned about how the political parties do not seem to be moving into a permanent reconciliation that would allow the country to move forward. And Kenya is not alone in some of the problems that we've seen of late, post-election or pre-election.

And we just want to make sure that people are mindful that this isn't just some abstract notion that we're trying to impose on Africa. There is a very practical, pragmatic consequence to political instability and corruption when it comes to whether people can feed their families, educate their children, and we think that Africa - the African continent is a place of extraordinary promise as well as challenges. We're not going to be able to fulfill those promises unless we see better governance. - Do you have priorities in terms of countries or regions? For instance, West Africa is extremely important in terms of oil; East Africa in terms of some of the strategic concerns of the United States?

President Obama - I think the entire continent is important. And keep in mind that although I'm visiting Ghana on this particular trip, we've already had [Prime Minister] Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe in the Oval Office. We've had [President] Kikwete from Tanzania in my office. And in each case, I'm trying to send the same message. You've seen some very good work by the administration in Tanzania focusing on how to deliver concrete services to the people, and wherever folks want to help themselves, we want to be there as a partner. And I think that you've got some very strong leadership in Africa that is ready to move forward and we want to be there with them.

On the economic front, that means opening up better trade opportunities. It means that we are interested not just in foreign aid, but in how we strengthen the capacity for development internally in these countries, and we want to work in a multilateral context, as well as the bilateral strengthening of relations with many of these countries.

But as you point out, there are strategic, national security, economic, environmental reasons why we think this region is important. And part of the reason we wanted to - although we're only going to one country this time, I actually thought that it made sense for us to connect a trip to Ghana to a previous trip with the G8. We'll be meeting a number of African countries in Italy during the G8 meeting - before that, a meeting in Russia - to show that Africa is directly connected to our entire foreign policy approach; that it's not some isolated thing where once every term you go visit Africa for a while to check that box, but rather it's an ongoing part of a broader discussion about how we move many of these international challenges forward.

End Excerpt____ Read the complete transcript and watch the video at

Note*:, with offices in Washington D.C., Johannesburg, Dakar, and Lagos publishes news submitted from more than 130 African newspapers and magazines. The company has a staff of journalists and news editors who cover and report exclusive news about Africa for the network. A favorite website for blog authors who write about Africa, has a global audience generating 12 million monthly page views and over 14,000 websites carry their headlines and news feeds.

What has been very pleasing to see is that leading news organizations are beginning to pick up on the interview since I first viewed it last week. I forwarded a notification about the interview with the U.S. president to friends at The African Loft (USA) and to Uganda’s leading investigative journalism newspaper The Independent in order to help spread the news online. Today I see that ABC News, Reuters, The Christian Science Monitor, and others have begun to reference the interview in their respective articles, editorials, and blog posts. This may be another sign that cooperation and interplay between global bloggers and professional journalists is working and helping to improve news media and not destroying mainstream news as many people claim.

The African Loft (USA)
Obama Primed for Ghana Visit 07/03/09
Opinion: Obama in Africa: Nigeria’s Envy 07/08/09

The Independent (Uganda)
Uganda Talks (The Independent’s news blog)
Obama’s Africa Interview 07/07/09
Cover Story: Secrecy, woes, war over Uganda's (vast) oil reserves 07/07/09
According to a recent survey by U.S. government oil and gas experts Uganda has oil and gas reserves in the Albertine rift valley that could rival those of Saudi Arabia

The White African (one of the top bloggers on Africa and technology) 07/03/09
Obama’s New Media Strategies for Ghana

So without any further ado or commentary from yours truly below please find news articles, interviews, and editorials about President’s upcoming visit to Ghana that I feel are important for my readers and visitors. In the meantime I shall continue working on trying to understand the impact of events that unfolded at the 13th African Union Summit of Heads of State and Government in Sirte, Libya last week and prepare a post about that important meeting and its possible affects on future U.S. foreign policy toward African countries and the African Union.’s YouTube Channel
President Obama Talks to AllAfrica at the White House - Part 1 (video 9:35)

President Obama Talks to AllAfrica at the White House - Part 2 (video 6:19)

Related news articles, editorials, interviews, and other resources
Africa: U.S. Wants to Spotlight 'Successful Models' And Be An 'Effective Partner' - Obama 07/02/09 - Exclusive interview with U.S. President Barack Obama on Africa

Africa: Obama Administration Tackling Wide Range of African Issues - Johnnie Carson 07/01/09 - Exclusive interview with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson

U.S. State Department Bureau of African Affairs
U.S. Mission to the African UnionAbout Us
AFRICOM – U.S. Africa Command – official website operated by the U.S. Department of State and the White House new media teams
President Obama in Ghana
Articles at related to President Obama’s policy agenda for Africa

VOA News (USA)
Africans Await President Obama's Message with Great Anticipation 07/09/09
Ghana President Previews President Obama's Visit in VOA Interview 07/08/09
Note: a VOA exclusive interview with Ghana President John Atta Mills
Ghana Backs Blocking ICC Arrest Warrant Against Sudanese President 07/08/09

Reuters (International)
Obama's Africa visit prompts Nigerian, Kenyan angst 07/03/09

The Christian Science Monitor (
Africa awaits Obama's turn on leadership 07/08/09
The Monitor’s editorial board shares its view on Obama’s trip to Ghana
Where rich countries are buying farmland (Africa) 07/08/09
Saudi Arabia has cut several deals, most recently in Tanzania

ABC News (USA)
Political Punch blog by senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper
Kenya Dig It? President Obama Talks Africa, Chastises Politics in Late Father's Homeland 07/05/09

The Hill (Washington DC, USA)High expectations ahead of historic trip to Africa 07/08/09

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1 comment:

Don Thieme said...

Barack Obama is a deep thinker and a great orator. Unfortunately, however, he has a tendency not to follow through or pursue his vision unless pressured to do so by popular movements. I was particularly disappointed this morning to hear him defending the AFRICOM program designed by the neoconservatives who were in charge of the Pentagon during the previous administration.