United States President Barack Obama will be visiting Nigeria, Kenya and some other African countries before the end of July, this year if the information from the Presidential travel trends is anything to go by.
It would be recalled that President Goodluck Jonathan and other Africa’s leaders have been some of Barack Obama’s fiercest critics, and alleged that he had not prioritised the continent since he became the US president in January, 2009.
During his first term in office, President Obama’s only visit to sub-Saharan Africa as president was a stopover of less than 24 hours in Ghana out of the 51 country visits he made.
Reacting to this, Laura Seay, an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Morehouse College, said that Africa was a low priority for most American presidents because of geopolitical interests and historical ties, “and that was the case in the Obama administration.” She added, though, Africa is becoming more important to U.S. foreign policy interests.
Though Obama’s National Security Adviser said in November that the president’s time in the White House was his most valuable resource, analysts insisted that Obama’s lack of time in Africa reflected compelling global priorities, not a lack of importance for Africa.
A review of presidential travel shows Europe and North America got the most visits during the Carter-to-Obama period. France led with 24 visits; the U.K. had 23; Canada and Germany had 20; Mexico and Italy had 19.
African Leaders believe that President Obama was yet to fully compliment the efforts of Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton who have made Africa a diplomatic priority in Obama’s first term, visiting 23 out of the 54 countries in the continent.
According to a US Presidential historian, Obama is likely to spend more time in Africa in his second term, freed of domestic campaign politics, second-term presidents can travel more in a continent that has less strategic importance than Europe and Asia. A rising terror threat in Mali has also heightened the region’s profile.
US state department officials defended Obama’s record on Africa and assured foreign journalists at a post-election briefing on US foreign policy in Chicago that President Obama was planning to embark on an official visit to Africa in 2013.
According to Elections, and US Foreign Policy Ambassador, John R. Nay, “President Obama and his strategists were quietly but intensely working on an official visit to Sub-Saharan Africa that would see him visiting, among others, South Africa.
“The relationship with the African continent continues to be important to president Obama and his administration in general. I expect a far stronger relationship during his second term in office and some continuous efforts to work closely with South Africa and many other African countries such as Nigeria and so on. I am not sure about his schedule but I am sure he will visit Africa soon,” said Nay, a former US Ambassador to South Africa during former president Nelson Mandela’s term in office.
The White House and State Department declined to comment on whether Obama would spend more time in Africa. Johnnie Carson, the State Department’s top Africa official, said this month that the Obama administration has helped Somalia stabilise and South Sudan gain independence and that the U.S. had provided more aid to Africa in the last four years than any other country.