1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Little enthusiasm about US elections across Africa

Isaac Mugabi (with material from Sam Olukoya)August 31, 2012

Barack Obama's election as US president in 2008 was widely welcomed in Africa. That enthusiasm has largely given way to skepticism. Many Africans today do not trust either candidate's policies towards Africa.

US President Barack Obama, and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.Foto:Carolyn Kaster, Charles Dharapak/AP/dapd)
Image: AP

As US President Barack Obama and his rival, Republican candidate Mitt Romney, prepare to compete in elections set for November, many people in Africa remain lukewarm.

When Obama, the son of a Kenyan, won the polls in 2008, there was much song and dance across the continent. That time has long passed. Sympathies for both candidates in many African countries are low.

"Most people here believe that, since the Obama administration, led by an African-American, has failed in its promises, there is little hope that Mitt Romney can do any better", says DW correspondent Sam Olukoya in Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital. The nomination of Mitt Romney as the Republican flag bearer has been greeted with skepticism across the continent.

President Barack Obama Foto:Carolyn Kaster/AP/dapd).
Critics say Obama hasn't fulfilled promises made in 2008Image: dapd

Romney's plan for Africa  

The Republican candidate's priorities towards Africa, however, do not differ much from those of Obama.

Romney's website lists bolstering economic ties and improving the rule of law, as well as increasing security and respect for human rights, as some of his priorities for Africa.  

Some African markets are increasingly interesting for the US. Nigeria is a case in point. US exports to Nigeria shot up to 4.8 billion dollars (3.8 billion euros) in 2011, an 18 per cent increase from the previous year. Wheat, vehicles and refined petroleum products are the main exports.

  On the security and human rights front, Romney intends to increase US support to end long-running conflicts such as the one in Sudan's Darfur region. He also promises to pressure the remaining despots who abuse their own people, and to weaken terrorist groups that threaten US interests.  

Mitt Romney REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Romney hopes to foster military and diplomatic ties with AfricaImage: Reuters

Consistent policy towards Africa

Analysts expect little change in US foreign policy towards Africa, should Romney win the elections.

"US policy towards Africa is remarkably consistent from one administration to another", former US ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, told DW.  

When Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, a wave of excitement swept across Africa.                                                 

There was wide optimism that the first Afro-American President of the US would play an important role in sorting out Africa's problems.

During the 2008 campaign, Obama had outlined his priorities for developing an Africa policy that included taking action to stop "what US officials have termed genocide in Darfur, fighting poverty, and expanding prosperity".

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama at a Hospital in Accra, Ghana, (ddp images/AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
President Obama has travelled to Africa to promote US-Africa relationsImage: AP

Unfulfilled promises

But a cross-section of Africans believe that Obama hasn't done enough to fulfill his promises.

“Obama so far has not demonstrated any sympathy for Africa, if anything he has left most African countries in disunity,” says Dr. Sylvester Odion-Akhaine of the Lagos State University in Nigeria.

However Ambassador Campbell says Obama's African paternity was over-emphasized by some of his critics in Africa. ” Obama is the US president and not an African president,” he told DW.

“His administration has spent more time and emphasis on Africa. For example Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spent ten days in Africa and this shows Obama's commitment to Africa,” Campbell added.