Will America Rebrand Africa?
After accepting the nomination as the democrat flag bearer for the big office, Obama has become the first African American to command such a following. After his great speech on the historic day marking the day when Martin Luther King delivered his speech I have a Dream, millions resonated that with Obama this dream will be transformed into a reality. This also stands as a proof that racism is no longer a significant barrier to black advancement and interracial equality. As the big day for election approaches, Africans are beginning to weigh the impact their son’s election may bring to this great continent.
Obama’s success will mark a new beginning for progress on a global and national level as business opportunities for minorities will be improved; educational opportunities for underserved youth will be expanded; fair access to capital will be expanded; the criminal justice system will be brought under control; minorities will gain access to innovation and technology opportunities; American troops who have been used to wreck havoc in the globe in the name of peace keeping will finally pack and go back home and federal government programs will be administered with fairness and opportunity.
Africans are hopeful that “with this stride, ‘their son’ will implement Africa-friendly policies that could uplift the continent from poverty. Nowhere else does Obama’s message resonate more strongly than in Africa through his message of global hope and victory over differences.
Deputy Senate President of Nigeria, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who witnessed the national convention of the Democratic Party in Denver, Colorado said that the proposed presidency of Senator Barrack Obama in the United States offers the best hope for Nigeria and Africa in the next dispensation as Africans believe their own in White House will apply the right foreign policy approach to instutionalise democracy in Africa. Africans believe Obama will turn America into a superpower that deals honestly and respectfully, protecting its own interests while also serving the interests of others.
His impact in Africa has been great. In May this year, the Nigerian militant group MEND unexpectedly announced that it would halt attacks on multinational oil installations if Barrack Obama requested a ceasefire. “Obama is someone we respect and hold in high esteem,” said a statement. That a ruthless guerrilla movement is prepared to trust a US senator whom it has never met, and who – has not expressed any opinion on the strife in the oil-rich Niger Delta, may seem odd, but it’s just one example of the Democrat’s huge popularity in Africa, especially among the youth. He hugely influences the African youth as they struggle with the legacies of colonialism, apartheid, and Africa’s perennial place at the back of the global pack. Obama is a beacon of hope to African youths who have been neglected by most systems and clearly points the way that young-turks can indeed lead.
Malcolm X and Martin Luther King both looked up to the Pan-African world for solidarity in overcoming American racism. Obama is likely to follow suit now that Pan-Africanism has atrophied to the extent that in this century there is no discernible movement that concerns itself with the problems that afflict Africa and people of African descent around the World.
In his autobiography Dreams from My Father, Barrack Obama has demonstrated his awareness of both a Pan-Africanist and Third World consciousness. Those who know Obama’s autobiographical instincts in guiding his best judgments know that his upbringing and struggle to identify himself are a core part of who he is. While heeding the call to be cautious in speculating what a possible Obama presidency might do for the African world, it is worth discussing the extent to which Obama’s historic speech at Denver open grounds has the potential to influence new visions and energies in the study of the Pan-African world and its future prospects. Those energies have been on display in many places around the world, not least in Kenya, where Obama’s father came from.
Obama’s blood connection to Africa, observing that Obama had “relatives living in third world poverty,” would help Africans feel “good and know that nothing is impossible no matter where you come from. His foreign policy might look friendly thus he is likely to move away from the policies of sanctions, which has hurt countries like Zimbabwe, to negotiation. He will have tough aid conditions and will move away from the weapons of mass destruction to mass reconstruction as was said by Opposition Malawi Congress Party Member of Parliament Boniface Kadzamira while congratulating Senator Obama.
Throughout his electrifying speech, something was more evident and this was optimism that people and nations can change themselves for the better and that they will be moved to do so even more by their differences than by their similarities. I believe this could be more relevant in Africa where we have diverse ethnic and cultural differences.
I would conclude by reiterating the remarks which were made by Professor Achille Mbembe of Wits “If Africa is to expect anything from an Obama presidency, it would need to invest in itself in order for it to hope to co-operate on equal terms and what we need is a deeper understanding of the shared interests between the US and Africa on the continent and beyond.” As Africans we wish him good luck in the race.
By Akinyi Janet
Editor of The African Executive