Late to the party, Obama seeks bigger U.S. Africa role
Sunday, August 03, 2014 - 01:57
''Son of Africa'' U.S. President Obama is chided for his lukewarm engagement in Africa, as China and others are seen leading the charge. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
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A warm embrace as then Senator Barack Obama visited his grandmother.
The year was 2006 and the rising star in democratic politics spoke of Kenya as a special place in his heart.
(SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA WHEN HE WAS A SENATOR IN 2006, SAYING:
"It is wonderful to be home."
When Obama was elected President hopes ran high that this "son of Africa" would deliver to the continent.
But even in Senegal, one of the countries Obama has visited, there is disappointment.
(SOUNDBITE) (French) IBRAHIMA DIA, DAKAR RESIDENT, SAYING:
" We thought since he was the black president, Africa would benefit, but there you have it, actually it is hopelessness."
In fact, U.S. trade in Africa has actually fallen off in recent years, to about $60 billion in 2013. That is far eclipsed by China whose $170 billion is a huge increase from $10 billion in 2000, according to Brookings Institution.
Stephan Hayes of the Corporate Council on Africa offers few explanations.
STEPHEN HAYES PRESIDENT AND CEO OF THE CORPORATE COUNCIL ON AFRICA SAYING:
"I don't want to psychoanalyze why he hasn't taken a more active role in Africa. The fact is he hasn't."
China's imprint on the continent can be found in infrastructure projects across Africa.
Sen. Chris Coons who chairs a key Committee on Africa, hopes the Summit will help change the tide.
(SOUNDBITE) (English), CHRIS COONS, (D-CONN) CHAIR OF THE SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE ON AFRICAN AFFAIRS, SAYING:
"It is still possible for the United States to make up for lost time, by strengthening our foreign commercial service, by leadership from our President, such as the upcoming summit, and engagement by our private sector and our public sector."
He says he hopes this week's U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington can help meet some of those high expectations on the African Continent.
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