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September 22, 2018

Obama’s post-aid legacy for Africa

US President Barrack Obama
US President Barrack Obama

Tomorrow marks the end of an era as the term of US President Barack Obama ends. His election eight years ago as the first African-American president of the world superpower was greeted with messianic hope across Africa. This optimism was neither far-fetched nor misplaced. His message of hope, “Yes We Can” echoed not only among the Americans but also across Africa and the globe.

Truth is, the Obama administration’s policy on Africa was less of a priority for America amidst a financial crisis and the wars in Iran and Afghanistan. The continent faces long-term and complex challenges that require consistent generational progress, and the Obama administration has made its mark. Underlying the administration’s African policy is an appreciation of Africa’s potential to drive its own destiny as an equal partner in trade and investment. Promotion of private sector partnerships with US businesses such as through the US-Africa Leaders Summit took centre stage. The story line is that African markets are an attractive investment destination for US investors on their own merit. This is a drastic departure from the aid-driven policy that characterised previous administrations. It is without doubt more economically sustainable post the Obama administration.

That said, economic progress under the Obama administration is undeniable, especially in the more stable parts of the continent such as Kenya. Two prominent initiatives of the administration anchored on private sector investment, giving them resilience post the Obama Presidency. They also define the Obama Africa legacy as the first post-aid president.

One, Power Africa is the most prominent initiative by the administration in partnership with the private sector. It is designed to increase electricity generation capacity by 30,000 megawatts and targets 60 million households and businesses. Power Africa brings together the world’s top companies, political leaders and financial institutions to help overcome Africa’s energy crisis. Its aim is to use collective problem solving to enable African leaders to pave their own future.

Two, the Young African Leaders Initiative aims to create the next generation of African leaders. It targets the leadership development of young people aged 25-35 through training, mentorship and networking. The gist of the initiative is for the young African people with the same goals and the same struggles, the same dynamic problems to find solutions across the continent. As we bid President Obama farewell, his Africa legacy is heralding a post-aid Africa by broadening engagement with Africa beyond the frames of security and humanitarian relief.

Karen Kandie is a financial and risk

consultant with First Trident

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