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President Obama Visit to Africa

President Obama Visit to Africa

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Published by dhshinn5947
E-mail response on 18 June 2013 to journalist's questions about the visit to Africa by President Barack Obama.
E-mail response on 18 June 2013 to journalist's questions about the visit to Africa by President Barack Obama.

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Published by: dhshinn5947 on Jun 24, 2013
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07/21/2013

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1
President Obama’s
Upcoming Trip to Africa18 June 2013David H. Shinn
Q: Why do you think Barack Obama picked Tanzania as one of the three African countries he’s
visiting?A: Any US presidential visit to multiple African countries requires geographical and languagediversity. Once a decision is made to visit 3 countries, the obvious regional selections are WestAfrica, Southern Africa and East Africa/Horn of Africa. Senegal is the West Africa/francophonechoice. South Africa is the Southern Africa selection. This leaves East Africa and the Hornwhere the realistic possibilities are Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Tanzania.I believe the US ruled out Kenya, the most likely choice under normal circumstances because
Obama’s father is from Kenya
. The controversy concerning the International Criminal Court(ICC) charges against recently elected President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President WilliamRuto simply raised too many concerns. Of the remaining choices
 — 
Ethiopia, Uganda andTanzania
 — 
the latter has a better record on democratization than the other two and was thechoice by default. US Secretary of State John Kerry did visit Ethiopia in May in connection withthe 50
th
anniversary of the Organization of African Unity/African Union.I would also point out that former President George W. Bush visited Tanzania in 2008.Q: What do you think will be the main focus of the Tanzania stop?A: A focus on economic development and US support for that development especially throughthe $700 million Millennium Challenge Corporation compact with Tanzania. There will also be praise for regularly scheduled national elections, acceptance of presidential term limits and peaceful political transitions, although historically the same party has won the presidency.Q: Tanzania is an African country with long term political and economic ties with China.
Would you say that the US chose Tanzania because it’s a country where China’s presence and
 
action are strong? Do you see it as a deliberate attempt to counter China’s influence in the
country, and more generally in Eastern Africa or even on the whole continent? Would you saythat the US has neglected Africa for too long and is now trying to play catch up with China?
A: I don’t think the visit to Tanzania has anything to do with China’s long and cordial
relationship with the country. China has a similar relationship with many other countries inAfrica. If this were the reason for 
Obama’s
visit to Tanzania, one must ask why not visit theseother African countries where China has a similar relationship.I think there is an appreciation that the US has not paid sufficient high-level attention to Africa inrecent years as compared to what China has been doing. Much of the problem during the Obama
 
2Administration has been a preoccupation with pressing domestic problems such as the housing, banking and related financial crises. There have also been foreign policy issues such as Iraq,Afghanistan and North Korea that have preempted Africa. The US has not neglected Africa; itsannual aid to the continent totals about $8 billion compared to $2.5 billion of OECD-equivalentaid from China. The US has also been active in countering extremism in East Africa, the Horn
and the Sahel region. Much of China’s engagement has been conducted by private and state
-owned companies. The US private sector in recent years has not kept pace. To some extent, theUS is now trying to play catch up with China and other countries such as Brazil, India andTurkey.Q: How much are US and Chinese interests in Tanzania and Africa in conflict? Would you saythat Tanzania, and Africa in general, can benefit from US-Chinese competition?A: The US competes with China and many other countries, including those in Europe, for tradeand commercial contracts. This is normal, healthy competition which works to the benefit of Africa. Recently, China and other emerging nations have been winning this competition inAfrica vis-à-vis the US and European countries. As North America and Europe put the financialcrisis behind it, I believe they will reemerge as strong competitors in Africa. Internationalcommerce is dynamic; no country stays on top forever.There are also areas for US-China-Europe cooperation in Africa and especially in countries likeTanzania, which receives assistance from all three to combat malaria. I believe this assistancewould be more effective if the three parties coordinated their anti-malaria efforts more closelythan has been the case in the past. The same argument applies across the continent where theUS, China and European Union are engaged in economic development, especially in the healthand agricultural sectors.The major difference in the US and Chinese approach to Africa concerns support (or lack thereof) for democratization and improved human rights practices. China generally does notengage on these issues while they are a high priority for the US, albeit not always on a consistent basis.Q: Would you say that Tanzania is as important to the US as it is for China for both economic(gas, oil, minerals) and political reasons?A: Tanzania is equally important to the US and China for political reasons. From the standpointof trade, China is far more important to Tanzania. In 2011, China exported $1.8 billion in goodsto Tanzania and imported $428 million from Tanzania. By contrast, the US exported $284million to Tanzania and imported $54 million from Tanzania. I suspect that China in recentyears has been a larger investor in Tanzania than the US. Chinese state-owned and privatecompanies certainly win more contracts than do American private companies.

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Joe Lee Frank added this note
Given what you have explained, I believe a comment on the reports that President Obama will meet with President Jammeh of The Gambia is necessary. The popularly elected president of Kenya is a choir member by comparison.
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