7 August 2014

Africa: Oloo - 'U.S.-Africa Summit a Signal of Strong Partnership Ahead'

interview

African nations are mulling over the outcome of the Africa-US summit in Washington attended by leaders representing 50 nations.US President Barack Obama announced $33 billion (24 billion euros) in new investments.

DW spoke to Martin Oloo a political analyst and commentator in Kenya.

One of the aims of this summit was to deepen economic ties and boost trade between Africa and the United States. Did it achieve that aim?

Absolutely, I think that the first issue that the US had to contend with was whether some of the leaders would honor or fail to honor the invitation. The fact that a number of these leaders honored that invitation was a plus for them and the second issue is that the US has been seeing a gradual drift of the African nations towards China particularly with attraction of investment opportunities and the silence around the issue of governance and human rights. Now what is similar between the US and China is that even the US now has said that issues of human rights and governance can wait but Africa is the place to do business and therefore whether you are working with people who have a good track record or not let us do business.

Who stands to benefit the most from the billions of dollars pledged for investment in Africa?

We see, of course, the public and private sectors benefitting, but at the end of the day the African leaders are going to work between the US and China and will actually benefit. But who stands to lose? It's the ordinary African looking out for good governance and respect for human rights. So we are not going to see the record on good governance and human rights improved, but rather we are going to see the competition between business persons saying issues of human rights and governance can wait.

Was it a mistake to invite more or less the whole of Africa to Washington all at once?

I think it's a big scoop on the part of the US to get Africa in the sense in which it got it. Remember that Africa has been organizing as a group to oppose the International Criminal Court (ICC) process, they have been organizing to thump their chests around the issues of sovereignty. To get them as a group was important, otherwise getting them in various portions could not have given them the kind of results that this summit has produced.

The United States has pledged 110 million dollars a year to help six African nations including three from East Africa to train rapid response forces. Kenya, however, was not among them. Why was that?

Definitely there have been issues around governance and perhaps the issues of the ICC between Kenya and the US. There are, of course, other positive things that have happened between Uganda and Rwanda over time in terms of their being able to take sides and deploy forces. I think we've seen Rwanda and Uganda readily do that particularly in conflict areas such as South Sudan. And Kenya has been a little hesitant until it had to push in its forces in Somalia. Generally, Kenya hasn't been on the faster side of rapid response as opposed to what perhaps Rwanda and Uganda has been.

What were the expectations going into this summit and to what extent do you think they have been fulfilled?

I think that for Kenya and for some countries in the east African region there were a number of hesitations. There were a number of things where either if they came up they had a plan to tackle them, or they hoped they wouldn't come up.For instance there are issues of anti-gay law, governance and human rights. Most of the leaders who went to the summit were waiting to be given a lecture but the fact that these issues did not come up, the fact there is a rapprochement, or an attempt by the US to act and reach out to Africa I think that is welcome. The fact that they are bringing out their hand to embrace Africa and promising goodies will go along way in generating employment and income opportunities for people I think that's what is welcome. What is critical, of course, is that there's need for partnership rather than donor aid or development aid that does not necessarily recognize partnerships.

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