President Obama is looking to strengthen ties with Africa with a brief tour from June 26 to July 3. With Africa’s economy continuing to grow at a healthy clip and increased interest from China and other nations, strengthening ties with African nations may prove pivotal in the years to come.
Africa is rich in resources and home to just over a billion people, many of whom are seeing their incomes rise and may some day generate demand for American goods and services.
Obama visit to Tanzania:
President Obama will visit Tanzania on the east Coast of Africa. Home to nearly 50 million people, the country is one of the larger on the continent. It is also home to vast deposits of precious metals and other valuable resources, such as natural gas. While the country’s economy still remains under developed, and its democratic institutions are flawed, it has been making slow but steady progress in recent years.
Obama visit to Senegal:
President Obama will also visit Senegal, one of the bright spots on the west coast of Africa. Senegal features one of the higher GDP’s in the region, with the average citizen earning just over 2,000 dollars a year (PPP). While this may not seem like much, people in neighboring Guinea Bissau only earn approximately 1,200 USD per year. Further, Senegal has proven to be among the more stable countries in the region, suffering no civil wars, military coupes, or other major civil disturbances.
Obama visit to South Africa:
Obama will also visit long-time U.S. ally South Africa. While South Africa remains among the more successful economic stories in Africa, increasing crime, a rising gap between the rich and the poor, and numerous other issues could destabilize the fragile nation. South Africa was once considered the model for African development, however, the nation has stumbled in recent years. Still, it features the highest GDP per capita in Sub Sahara Africa, at 11,000 USD and is generally considered to be among the more politically stable nations on the continent.
While in administrations past, Presidents often headed to Africa to highlight development and human rights issues, usually in their second term, the continent is now taking on a more important geopolitical role in the world stage. China has been moving aggressively to strengthen ties with mineral rich African countries and has spent billions of dollars on building infrastructure and other projects.
With the United States suffering from budget deficits, it is unlikely that it can afford to increase spending. Instead, increased political interaction and higher profile trips may need to become a mainstay. Further, encouraging self driven economic development will become more essential as funding from Europe, Japan, and other Western markets will remain restrained due to tough economic conditions.
This will mark President Obama’s second Sub-Saharan African tour as President. He also visited Kenya while a Senator and his father was of Kenyan descent. With domestic pressures ramping up over scandals at the State Department, IRS, and Department of Justice, such trips may help Obama rebuild his image and divert attention away from the numerous distractions plaguing the administration. And if well-orchestrated, such tours could help bolster American influence in the region.