President Obama wrapped up his tour of sub-Saharan Africa. His $7 billion initiative to increase electricity access in the region called Power Africa was the biggest news from the visit. Some saw the move as a rebuff to China who has been spending more and more money on building roads, bridges and ports in sub-Saharan Africa.
Harvard professor Calestous Juma disagrees. The Kenyan agriculture academic says the trip is about asserting the US as a legitimate player in the region.
African leaders have set their own development priorities, and Obama’s messages were aligned with their aspirations. The challenge is to bring all of Africa in the spirit of the African Union around the table with President Obama to chart an equally practical way forward.
Africa’s global interests are shifting from relief programs and relations on raw material exports to domestic capability, development and trade. U.S. government programs such as the Feed the Future which emphasize the need for Africa to feed itself offer new cooperation models.
In this spirit, perhaps aid programs such as PEPFAR (the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) should include joint venture initiatives that involve the shift of pharmaceutical production to Africa. The continent’s next frontier of engagement with the rest of the world will increasingly involve such joint ventures.