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Obama's Africa tour

Adriane Kriesch/imJuly 2, 2013

Obama's one week trip to Africa is now over. Africans' initial enthusiasm for him has evaporated and some even believe his commitment to the continent is less intense than his predecessors.

U.S. President Barack Obama applauds a group of dancers on arrival in Tanzania Photo:REUTERS/Jason Reed
Image: Reuters

Traditional dancers welcomed the U.S. president on his arrival in Tanzania, the last stop on his trip to Africa. While there Barack Obama wanted to press for a new model for cooperation with Africa, shifting away from traditional development aid towards a new economic partnership.

And since doing business and trade were the focus of his trip, he was also accompanied by a 500 strong business delegation. ”Ultimately the goal here is for Africa to build Africa for Africans. And our job is to be a partnership in that process,“ said Obama, praising Tanzania as one of the best partners.                                                  

Tanzanians' love for Obama

"Tanzanians love you," Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete told Obama as they drove through Barack Obama Drive, the main road in the center of Dar es Salaam that had just been renamed in his honor.

However observers describe the applause for Obama as having been staged-managed by the state. ”Our economic relations with the United States are quite limited," says the Tanzanian economist and opposition leader Ibrahim Lipumba in an interview with DW.

Lipumba quoted figures saying that Tanzanian exports to the United States in 2012 were worth just $66 million, as opposed to goods sold to China during the same period which were worth $530 million.

China has overtaken the US as Africa's largest trading partner. After taking office, the new Chinese President Xi Jinping demonstrated a "serious friendship" between China and Africa by making Africa his first foreign destination.

Obama speaks to Young african leaders Photo:Ludger Schadomsky/DW
Barack Obma addressing young African leaders during his tourImage: DW/L. Schadomsky

But despite the investment from China, India and Brazil, the US continues to play an important role in Africa. For South Africa, the second leg of Obama's tour, the US is an important trading partner.

Some 600 American companies are based in South Africa, employing over 120,000 people. US direct investment in 2010 was worth at least $6.5 billion.

Former US presidents had larger African programs

 Obama's predecessor Bill Clinton will be remembered for initiating the AGOA trade agreement (African Growth and Opportunity Act), which gives preferential treatment to  certain African exports, such as textiles, on the US market.

President George W. Bush surprised many during his term when he approved a $15 billion AIDS program for Africa.

Newspapers in Africa covered extensively obama's visit Photo:Ludger Schadomsky/DW
The media in Africa drew comparisons between Obama and his predecessorsImage: DW/L. Schadomsky

It is unliokely that Obama, the first African-American US president, wil preside over program of a similar magnitude. Nonetheless  he has pledged $7 billion for an initiative to double access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa over the next five years. in Senegal, on the first leg of his trip, Obama promised assistance fpr agriculture.

Away from economic issues, Obama also called on African governments to do more against corruption and to promote democratic change. In Senegal, the U.S. president urged equality for homosexuals in Africa.

U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Senegal's President Macky Sall Photo:Jason Reed/REUTERS
Barack Obama called on Senegal to respect gay and lesbian rightsImage: Reuters

Homosexuality is illegal in most African countries and, in some extreme cases gays and lesbians have been threatened with the death penalty. But at a joint press with Obama, Senegal's President Macky Sall said Senegalese society was not yet ready to decriminalize homosexuality.

High expectations

"I think the expectations were too high from the beginning," said Stefan Reith, the head of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Tanzania. He says economic ties were intensified during the trip, but irrespective of how important Africa may be it can never be at the top of Washington's priorities. "The Kenyan roots of an individual president won't change that," he added..