9 November 2012

Africa: Obama Victory - Time for Enhanced African-American Ties


A FORTNIGHT ago, I wrote on this column expressing the right of Americans to elect a president of their choice but wished at the same time, victory for the incumbent President Barack Obama.

I am happy that Americans have returned to the White House the first black in America's history to be elected President of the United States for four more years and constitutionally, his last. My support for Obama is ideological.

The man and his Democratic party understand better the needs, worries and aspirations of ordinary folk not only in the United States but throughout the world during these hard economic times.

It is the only way to understand his resounding victory against the robust promises of fixing the economy by multimillionaire challenger, Mitt Romney of the Republican Party, America's conservative voice. For the Republicans, Obama's victory should be a moment of soul searching on how best to connect with the American people on issues that matter the most for them. Otherwise, Republicans should forget occupying the White House for the next twelve years rather than shed tears on the four they have lost.

Mr Romney was a formidable challenger. The only problem is the message that his party sends across to the American people. Hard line capitalism died many years ago and as the impact of globalization sinks in, Americans too are realizing that they cannot live in isolation from the rest of the global community where the rich few get richer and richer while the vast majority of the people get it tough going.

That is where the Democrat Party's message and political ideals resonate more with the reality on the ground, which in political terms, translates into popular support. Since his rise to power four years ago, Obama has become a kind of cake that everybody wants a piece of.

It is a tall order that not even the best intentioned person can meet. But, if America has to continue leading the world economically, militarily, technologically and morally, Obama is a kind of intangible asset that can work Americans equally massive benefits. I do not expect Obama to change from his subtle or soft power style in tackling global crises with direct American interests.

But he will be more forceful this time. Perhaps, that will be his biggest legacy. The man prefers to aim first before shooting, a strategy that made Israel to get slightly uneasy with him but succeeded to unnerve Iran as the nuclear capability hungry nation failed to gage his true intentions if it kept an intransigent stance on global demands for not going nuclear. But what should Africa expect from the man?

As a son of the land too, Africa also has high hopes from Obama. He did not have a very clear Africa policy in his first four years at the White House. Indeed, he made only one visit to Ghana where he urged increased trade between the US and Africa. It was a well intentioned message but I am afraid that is not what Africa needs badly at the moment.

Africa needs investments. It is a very rich continent and America has both the technology and financial resources to help Africa leap frog to new levels of economic progress. The only problem is the 'cultural cliff' that exists between Africa and America in the way of doing business. Capital led America is still a nation that goes out to grab and grab while Africa looks for equitable exploitation of its resources in order to kick poverty.

I don't see how Obama can change that but he has an obligation, both during his tenure of office at the White House and after, to spearhead a new African-American engagement that would look beyond the obsession to hunt the Al Qaida in Mali, Somalia and East Africa. Rather than look for military bases around the continent, America can rediscover and share with Africa its frontier spirit that led it to develop remote corners of the country.

I believe Wall Street would not have been the financial capital of the world that it today without the manufacturing and technological advances that fuel the American economy from the Midwest and the West Coast. The Latino community has warned Obama that he owes the election victory to their vote. All I can say is that America owes Africa a great debt. It was Africa's human capital that transformed American manufacturing and built its business fortunes and empires.

Luckily, it is a son of Africa that has led America out of a recession comparable in magnitude to the Great Depression of the 1930s. That Americans have handed him four more years, is even more exhilarating. It is no small matter that the Financial Crisis resulting from subprime housing loans led to bankruptcy of banks like the Lehman Brothers. But the same crisis also nearly trebled the fortunes of JP Morgan Chase.

If we can spread that wealth a bit, then Africa is the place for real potential and virgin possibilities. There has never been a better time for enhanced African-American ties than now. The only question is how to reach across the cultural divide.

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