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Consolidating African Democracy

The United States, US, President Barrack Obama’s second visit to the African continent has just come to an end (Sunday July 2). Obama, together with his economic team, rounded off a one-week tour of three countries, which began last Wednesday. Having been to Ghana during his first visit, the president this time visited Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania, which Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor, described as “strong democracies.”

 

According to Rhodes, it is Obama’s priority to support the consolidation of such strong democracies, “so that Africans are focused not just on democratic elections, but on institutions like parliaments, independent judiciaries, and strengthening of the rule of law.” The effort to consolidate democracies in Africa is important. While Grant Harris, senior director for African affairs, admitted that some African nations have made demonstrable progress, particularly in instituting democratic reforms, he however noted that political institutions in many countries of the continent are still fragile, resulting in their resolve to assist them.

 

But there is more. In addition to ensuring that democracies in Africa are deep-rooted, Obama, during his meetings with the leaders of the countries he visited, focused on economic growth, food security, global health and other issues that would help rescue the peoples of the countries he visited and Africans in general from the jaws of poverty.

 

It is worthy of note however that the US is not interested in Africa solely for the benefits of Africans. The Western nation is also interested in the health of the African economy so that it would in turn reap from it. Describing Africa as one of the most important emerging regions in the world, Rhodes, during a telephone conference prior to the president’s visit, stressed that the US would not be left behind, but would significantly increase their engagement on the continent in the years to come. “There are growing economic opportunities there for increased trade and investment and increased engagement by U.S. businesses.” Stressing that countries like China, Turkey and Brazil are already cashing into the business opportunities in Africa, the deputy national security advisor said that the US should not be sidelined, but should maintain a leading role in Africa to avoid “falling behind in a very important region of the world.” The potential of gain in Africa is so much for Rhodes to believe that no amount of investment in the continent is too much. “And if Africa does take off economically, you’re going to have a rapidly growing middle class and market for U.S. goods.  And, again, what we hear from our businesses is that they want to get in the game in Africa. Africa as a big market for US goods, justification for the expenses on president’s trip,” Rhodes said.

 

Aware of the insecurity situation across the continent, which, if left unattended to, will constitute risks to the US agenda on the continent, Rhodes said the US is turning to African states to help address such global issues as nuclear proliferation, climate change, counter-terrorism, and other transnational threats.

 

In a continent with a high population of young people, the US president, in recognition that the continent’s future lies on their shoulders, involved the youths during his trip to South Africa. In continuation of Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative, which he launched during his first term in office, Obama spoke to young African leaders during a town hall meeting at the University of Johannesburg in Soweto, about the US investment with the aim of deepening ties with young people, not just in South Africa, but across the continent. Michel Obama, in furtherance of the youths’ involvement, equally met with some high school age youths, with her discussion focused on education, women and girls around the world.

 

With the African tour over, it is believed that the US bilateral ties with the visited countries and Africa in general has been made stronger. Rhodes is also optimistic that having made counter-terrorism its priority, its partnership with the visited countries and other countries of Africa would help checkmate terrorism and make the continent safe for people to live in.

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