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USA/Africa: Obama Visit Roundup

AfricaFocus Bulletin
July 29, 2015 (150729)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

In analyzing high-profile presidential visits, it is difficult to sort out symbolism from substance in the sheer volume of news coverage and commentary. And despite the flurry of announcement of "deals" at each stop, the main lines of policy are rarely altered and often reflect continuity not only within one presidential administration but also from one administration to another. The content of private conversations of lower-level officials as well as others involved in the visits may be just as significant as the formal meetings of presidents. Even more significant may be the issues not discussed because common assumptions go unquestioned on both sides.

As regular readers know, AfricaFocus seeks to select and repost particularly insightful news and commentary that readers might not have seen elsewhere. With such a visible event, that is difficult. The "news" is available to anyone who has internet access and is paying attention. And almost all the commentary is predictable and repetitive.

So this issue of AfricaFocus is different, and consists primarily of links for readers to explore as they wish, to supplement what they have already seen or read.

I have included (1) links to the speeches that seemed to me most significant, (2) suggestions for custom google searches that might turn up a wide variety of other sources, (3) links to a few commentaries, including audio from radio programs in which your editor was included, and (4) links to previous AfricaFocus Bulletins covering questions that were "off the radar screen" in the visit as well as in media commentary.

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

President Obama's Speeches

Among the speeches and other events made available by the White House in video form or transcripts, these stand out, particularly the first. Unfortunately neither the introduction by his sister in Kenya nor the remarks by African Union Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma were kept on-line by the White House, although they were available in the live webcast.

President Obama's Speech to Kenyan People, July 26, 2015
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_Kw9YnNXJk
Transcript: http://tinyurl.com/qbh23t9

President Obama's Speech to African Union, July 28, 2015
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNife3N3X0Q
Transcript: http://allafrica.com/stories/201507281847.html

Custom Google Searches

Note: With the "site:" operator, one can limit a google search to a single website or to all websites with the same country code, to get a better idea of how an event or a topic is covered. Some examples for President Obama's trip include these, including the two principal international organizations focusing on human rights issues:

  • Obama visit to Africa 2015
  • Obama visit to Africa 2015 site:nytimes.com
  • Obama visit to Africa 2015 site:amnesty.org
  • Obama visit to Africa 2015 site:hrw.org
  • Obama visit to Africa 2015 site:allafrica.com (includes many articles from African press)
  • Obama visit to Africa 2015 site:saharareporters.com
  • Obama visit to Africa 2015 site:.ke (from websites in Kenya)
  • Obama visit to Africa 2015 site:.et (from websites in Ethiopia) search web not news since .et not well-represented in news)

Additional country codes can be found at http://www.web-l.com/country-codes/

Several short articles I found worth noting:

Simon Allison, "Barack Obama's convenient truths," Daily Maverick, July 27, 2015
Oped: http://tinyurl.com/o64s46p

Simon Allison, "Obama at the African Union," Daily Maverick, July 28, 2015
News: http://tinyurl.com/oduwce4

Hassen Hussein, "What exactly is Obama's Africa legacy?," Al Jazeera, July 28, 2015
Opinion: http://tinyurl.com/ne2f28y

Paul Korin, "A visit of firsts, but Obama's Africa policy mostly symbolic," Globe and Mail, July 28, 2015
http://tinyurl.com/pnj3sp6

Audio of radio interviews in which I participated:

KPFA Sunday Show, July 26, 2015, 1st hour, interview with William Minter, Editor, AfricaFocus Bulletin
Audio: https://kpfa.org/player/?audio=210725

KPFA Upfront, July 27, 2015
Horace Campbell, Syracuse University and William Minter, Editor, AfricaFocus Bulletin
Audio: https://kpfa.org/player/?audio=211164 (start at 34 minutes)

WPFW, July 29, 2015 1pm-2pm Eastern US time - Mwiza Munthali with Nii Akuetteh and William Minter - will be live at http://www.wpfwfm.org/radio/
and later archived at http://www.wpfwfm.org/radio/programming/archived-shows

Aspects of Topics Avoided, with some links to previous AfricaFocus Bulletins

On Counter-Terrorism

With the exception of President Obama's diplomatic critique of Kenyan and Ethiopian use of the threat of terrorism as an excuse human rights violations, there was little reference to other critiques of the policies of USA, Kenya and Ethiopia. For alternative views, see in particular the background history and commentary on the USA, Kenya, and Ethiopian involvement in Somalia at http://www.africafocus.org/country/somalia.php, particularly
http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/gar1504.php,
http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/som1502.php,
http://www.africafocus.org/docs11/som1108.php, and
http://www.africafocus.org/docs07/som0701a.php

On Corruption & "Illicit Financial Flows"

While President Obama spoke eloquently about corruption in Africa, and briefly mentioned "illicit financial flows" in response to a remark by African Union Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, there was clearly no recognition of the critical role played by multilateral institutions in the United States and the international financial system more generally in extracting capital from Africa. For coverage of this, see, in particular, the recent AfricaFocus Bulletin on "Stop the Bleeding" (http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/iff1507.php) as well as previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on related issues (http://www.africafocus.org/intro-iff.php)

See also the July 27 article by Soren Ambrose of ActionAid International, "Opinion: Developing Nations Set to Challenge Rich Ahead of SDG [Sustainable Development Goals] Summit," http://tinyurl.com/nr7po7g

On Economic Policy

Despite brief mentions of the need to address inequality and jobs, the dominant assumption in President Obama's speeches was the "trickle-down" theory that all "trade and investment" will eventually pay off for all, and that the primary engine of growth is the private sector. And while there was much mention in the press of the competition between China and the United States, there was scant mention, if any, of alternate African and global perspectives on sustainable development strategies deviating from the dominant U.S. market fundamentalism.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins including material on economic growth and strategies, visit http://www.africafocus.org/econexp.php

On Climate Change

Although there was much talk of "Power Africa," the approach paralleled the Obama administration's domestic policy in its stance toward fossil fuels and renewable energy, namely "all of the above." Despite brief references to off-the-grid and renewable energy, much of the private investment to come under the "Power Africa" label is likely to support traditional fossil fuels, particularly natural gas power generation. And there were no new commitments to major increases in global funding to support climate change mitigation.

For a wider discussion of these issues in previous AfricaFocus Bulletins, visit http://www.africafocus.org/intro-env.php

On Health

In spite of token references to AIDS and Ebola, the visit did not focus major attention on health challenges, including the need for adequate financing for major investments in public health

See http://www.africafocus.org/intro-health.php for AfricaFocus talking points and previous Bulletins.


AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at africafocus@igc.org. Please write to this address to subscribe or unsubscribe to the bulletin, or to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about reposted material, please contact directly the original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see http://www.africafocus.org


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