Obama Promises Africa a New Partnership

from The Wall Street Journal..

June 30, 2013

By COLLEEN MCCAIN NELSON in Cape Town, HEIDI VOGT in Dar Es Salaam and DREW HINSHAW in Dakar, Senegal

U.S. President Barack Obama looked to reset his Africa policy Sunday, in a speech promising a new partnership that moved beyond aid to supporting democracy and access to electricity for a continent edging into an era of fewer conflicts and broader prosperity.

The Obamas visit Robben Island prison, near Cape Town, where Nelson Mandela spent years as a prisoner.

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In what advisers billed as the signature speech in a weeklong tour, Mr. Obama committed to deeper engagement with Africa after a first term that saw him spend only one day on the continent.

On Sunday, he offered a plan that included a multibillion-dollar initiative to build power plants across the region, a renewed call to invest in strong institutions—not strongmen—and a pledge to engage with African heads of state. “I’m calling for America to up our game when it comes to Africa,” he told a crowd at the University of Cape Town.

The speech, as well as Mr. Obama’s journey to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania, served as a counterweight to criticism that the president had taken his eye off the region over the past few years, when he developed few new Africa programs. He has returned to Africa with a call for U.S. investment and an aggressive push for democracy.

For some Africans, though, this visit has been a reminder of Mr. Obama’s absence. And while he has been greeted enthusiastically at carefully managed events, the president also has drawn protesters and questions about whether he will follow through this time around.


On this trip, Mr. Obama and his advisers have focused on the twin themes of democracy and economic opportunity, suggesting that the two are inextricably linked. As the administration launched a new program, Power Africa, aimed at doubling access to power in sub-Saharan Africa, officials emphasized that democratic institutions would be critical to its success.

“If we’re going to get investment from international development banks, from private sector partners, they need to have the predictability that comes with the rule of law and governance,” said Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser to Mr. Obama.


About 600 million of Africa’s 1 billion people don’t have power. Africa’s population is set to expand by 600 million by 2030, according to the United Nations, growth much greater than the current rate of new investment.

Many economists say the continent’s most promising economies like Nigeria, a country of 167 million people, would enjoy double-digit growth every year if they received more regular power.


Mr. Obama has sought to spur deeper U.S. commercial engagement with Africa—the world’s poorest continent but one with a sizable and fast-growing middle class. In the past week, Mr. Obama has announced a trade deal with one bloc of African countries, and in Tanzania, officials say, he will announce Trade Africa, an additional set of agreements to help Africa’s factories and farms gain shelf space in America.

—Patrick McGroarty in Soweto, South Africa, contributed to this article.

Link to the entire article and slideshow:  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323936404578577862807993572.html?KEYWORDS=Patrick+McGroarty


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