When Barack Obama was elected as president of the United States of America on January 20, 2009, there were high expectations that he would change the policy towards Africa. Many critics who favor the White American population warned that the newly elected president would be biased towards Black Americans and the African continent.
Three years after the 44th president of the United States left office on January 20, 2017, many critics argue that America never had a Black president. They claim that although Barrack Obama was born to an African father, he was never an African by heart.
They argue that although Obama may have visited Africa more than any other US president, he surprisingly did not leave any visible footprint on the continent.
Obama channelled America's focus from Africa towards Asia. His predecessor, George W Bush made Africa a critical foreign policy priority for his administration and through his efforts to combat HIV/Aids helped to save millions of lives.
Bush launched the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in 2003. It was initially a five-year plan to spend $15bn tackling the global HIV and AIDS epidemic. Before the programme began, just 100,000 people were on free anti-retroviral drugs in Africa. According to reports, by the time Bush left office in 2008 that number had jumped to two million.
The support in the fight against AIDS wasn't Bush's only success in Africa. He backed the cancellation of $34bn worth of debt for 27 African states and launched a $1.2bn programme to combat malaria in the 15 hardest-hit African nations. He also led on peace efforts in Sudan. His aid budget for Africa quadrupled from $1.3bn in 2001 to $5bn by 2008. All this explains why in some parts of the continent Bush remains popular.
Many critics and observers were surprised when Obama slashed hundreds of millions of dollars from the AIDS relief program initiated by George W. Bush. He also foiled all the efforts by his predecessor to broker peace in Sudan and played a vital role in the creation of South Sudan. This country has now descended in chaos and impoverished the lives of its citizens.
Obama's presidency also recorded a considerable number of unfulfilled promises for the African continent. One of such failed promises that have remained a point of reference for critics was an announcement during his visit to South Africa in 2013 at the funeral of Nelson Mandela.
Obama launched his flagship Africa initiative in Cape Town: Power Africa, a $7bn-project led by the US international development agency, which aims to double electricity output in Africa within five years. He said his ambition was to bring "light where currently there is darkness".
To date, the promise of Power Africa has not met its aspiration. No electricity has yet been delivered. The project has been substantial on ambition, but poor on delivery.
One other area where many critics believed Obama failed was his role in the assassination of the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Although he will later apologize for his role in Gaddafi's death, many Africans will not forgive him for his actions.
In 2009, seven months after entering the Oval Office, President Obama pledged a new Africa policy; he declared in the Ghanaian Parliament, "Africa doesn't need strongmen. It needs strong institutions."
Pro-democracy activists welcomed the declaration and supported the cause, little did they know that Obama would use the opportunity to further the western cause in Africa and fight against the continent's unity and freedom.
Obama's government was biased in its fight against African strongmen and did little or nothing to build strong institutions in the continent.
During a speech in Nairobi, Kenya in July 2018, many observers were irritated by Obama's comment when he recalled his last visit to Kenya in 2006 as an American senator from Illinois.
Recalling his visit, he claimed to have been received like a rock star and holed up in swanky hotels and conference rooms of Nairobi. Many believed this wasn't a good picture to paint in the public eye, especially as Africans expected him to help in debunking the numerous misconceptions about the continent.
There are however, some sections who think otherwise about Obama's legacy and reasonably so; they counter the arguments that he was not a good leader to the African people with the facts that Obama was an American president – not a president of the African people.
Those who defend the past president say he was right to pace the priorities of the people who elected him into office, claiming that African governments and individuals who contributed to his campaign did so in their own accord and are wrong to expect a bias towards Africa in return.
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