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
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
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