Monday, November 05, 2012

An African view of the U.S. election

We have mentioned in a previous post how poverty in America has barely been mentioned in the campaign for president. What has been discussed even less by the candidates is poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Many Africans have felt ignored by the U.S. over the last four years. This cold shoulder has been reflected in trading statistics as well. China is now the biggest reading partner with Africa, eclipsing a record that the U.S established in 2008.

From Reuters Alert Net, writers  Njuwa Maina and Tosin Sulaiman have this view of the U.S. election from African eyes.
Looking across the Atlantic to the Nov. 6 presidential election, the continent is cooler now towards the "son of Africa" who is seeking a second term. There are questions too whether his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, will have more to offer to sub-Saharan Africa if he wins the White House.
Obama, who hailed his "African blood within me", only visited sub-Saharan Africa once in his four years - a stopover of less than a day in Ghana in between summits elsewhere.
In Kogelo, which was put on the tourism map by Obama's election and where his grandmother still lives, locals take this personally.
"He should have come to at least say 'hi' to the people of Kenya so that we can know that we are still together in spirit, rather than abandoning us as if he was not our son," said Steven Okungu, 21. "It is a disappointment."
Many in Africa feel their enthusiasm for Obama was not requited by him in terms of increased U.S. commitment and fresh concrete initiatives on the world's poorest continent, a deficit they see being filled by other emerging players such as China, Brazil, India and South Korea.
Sub-Saharan Africa has gone virtually unnoticed as a topic in the U.S. presidential election campaign, focused heavily as it has been on pressing domestic issues such as the lack of jobs and how to prod America's stuttering economy into faster growth.
But analysts see a strong counter-terrorism focus increasingly driving U.S. policy towards Africa, as Washington throws its weight behind efforts on the continent to confront the spreading presence there of al Qaeda and its Islamic jihadist allies in hotspots from Somalia to Mali and Nigeria.
"These concerns don't recognise borders," Mark Schroeder, Director of Sub-Saharan Africa analysis at STRATFOR Global Intelligence, told Reuters, predicting this security focus will figure strongly whoever wins the election.
In 2009, China overtook the United States as Africa's largest trading partner. According to the Brookings Institution, President Hu Jintao of China has made up to seven trips to Africa, five as head of state, and has visited at least 17 countries. In contrast, Obama's 20-hour 2009 sojourn in Ghana has been his only trip to sub-Saharan Africa as president.
"We would have expected to see more American involvement instead of a retreat. If you go to many countries and ask them about who is doing more, they will tell you China," said Mwangi Kimenyi, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

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