Analysis on Obama’s 2013 Visit to Africa

President Barack Obama with President Macky Sall of Senegal
President Barack Obama with President Macky Sall of Senegal

I would like to share the following article on Pambazuka by Antoine Roger Lokongo, summarizing and identifying key questions for Obama’s last visit in Africa.  Like he points out so well, Obama’s visit was a tour to counter China’s influence in Africa.  Make up your own opinions, and please think: what should be the future of African relations with the United States, Europe, China, and others? What will be fair for African countries? How do Africans impose themselves at the bargaining table?


[…]  There is a Chinese proverb which says that, ‘When the water subsides the rocks emerge’. Now that the ‘Obama fever’ has evaporated, all that remains is a stark reality that we are faced with: Barack Obama is the President of the United States of America who went to Africa to defend and promote America’s strategic interests, perceived as being threatened by China’s strong presence in the continent. Obama’s African tour was about countering China’s influence in Africa. Despite his charm offensive to woo Africa, depicting it as a ‘hopeful continent on the rise and with which America can partner and do business on an equal footing and ‘win-win’ basis’, perhaps taking a leaf from the Chinese ‘win-win’ international relations lexicon, Africans should treat him as such: A US president who went to Africa to build strategic military and business ties with Africa in the face of China’s surge in the continent.

President Obama in South Africa
President Obama in South Africa

[…] In his speech at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, President Obama rebuffed the criticism often coming out of Africa according to which democracy and transparency, those values which America holds dearly, are somehow Western exports and that it is intrusive and meddlesome of America to impose them on Africa. … he pointed out that ‘those in power in Africa who make those arguments are usually trying to distract people from their own abuses. Sometimes, they are the same people who behind closed doors are willing to sell out their own country’s resource to foreign interests, just so long as they get a cut’. It is hard to argue against that. The question, however, is, what if those foreign interests are American?

It is hard to believe that America does not tell African people who their leaders should be, but stand up with those who support the principles that lead to a better life. The list of African leaders who were assassinated by the CIA because they put the interests of their people first and refused to blindly serve American interests is very long. The list of leaders (living and dead) who were hoisted to power to serve America’s strategic interests and heaped with praises they do not deserve from the White House is also very long. In Congo, Patrice Lumumba was assassinated and Mobutu Sese Seko was hoisted to power. As far as we know, there are no strong institutions, such as independent judiciaries that can enforce the rule of law; honest police forces that can protect the peoples’ interests instead of their own; an open government that can bring transparency and accountability in Rwanda and Uganda today. But there are two strongmen who are supported and protected by Britain and America so long as they serve as proxy forces in Congo. They are presidents Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame!

China's presence in Africa
China’s presence in Africa

In fact, today, apart from the Chinese mining contracts in which the Congolese state (DRC) retains at least 32% of stakes, the stakes of the Congolese state in all other mining contracts the government has signed with Western mining companies do not go beyond 20%! So, Western powers still enjoy the lion’s share in Congo. In Zimbabwe, the government retains 51% stakes in each mining contract, not like in the DRC. That is what should be emulated by all other countries throughout Africa. The Chinese respect our laws and rules of the game and are massively investing in Zimbabwe under those rules, but Western countries see a problem with that policy in Zimbabwe where the economy is recovering without Western financial help and despite Western sanctions (so Mugabe is not pocketing all the money). Without African countries drawing their own rules and laying them on the table for their external partners to follow and not the other way round, African independence will remain meaningless and Africa will totally be owned by the outside world, in other words, by people who come and loot Africa’s wealth through predatory wars and then return to Africa as investors!

After all, the US desire to devour Africa was best explained by the late Secretary of Commerce, Ron Brown, while visiting Uganda. He told a dinner party audience that: ‘For many years African business has been dominated by Europeans while America gets only 17% of the market. We are now determined to reverse that and take the lion’s share.’ (See here)

[…] So, the rise of China is having a much more positive impact than when the West met Africa, China and other colonized nations. For us it meant slavery, colonialism, neo-colonialism and all the mechanisms put in place by Western powers (NGOs, IMF, World Bank, churches and so on) in order to keep Africa always last in the queue.

Exports from G7 countries and China to Africa in 2011 (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Exports from G7 countries and China to Africa in 2011 (Source: Wall Street Journal)

What is important for America in Africa? Sustainable development or the militarization of its African policy, including by its new strategy of ‘American money and African boots’? America is establishing military bases everywhere throughout Africa (Djibouti, Niger, Libya…) under the AFRICOM program, when other parts of the world are getting rid of or calling for American military bases to be closed in their territories because they must be infringing on something. What could that something be?

South American countries are succeeding exactly because they have reached their own consensus instead of trusting the Commonwealth, Francophonie, Lusophonie, Washington Consensus and so on. As Noam Chomsky puts it, in the past decade, for the first time in 500 years, South America has taken successful steps to free itself from Western domination, another serious loss for America. The region has moved towards integration, and has begun to address some of the terrible internal problems of societies ruled by mostly Europeanized elites, tiny islands of extreme wealth in a sea of misery. They have also rid themselves of all US military bases and of IMF controls.

The whole article on Pambazuka.

One thought on “Analysis on Obama’s 2013 Visit to Africa

  1. Wow, I wasn’t aware of all this years ago. Thanks for breaking everything down with the charm offensive, the political issues, and with the countries not having much of a say with their resources.


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