By Shem Mukalo
Nearly 50 African Presidents and business leaders have descended on Washington for the US-Africa Summit which kicked off yesterday.The three-day summit featuring political and business leaders from countries presumed to be in good standing with America is expected to focus on three thematic areas namely: business, security, and governance.
This gathering,unprecedented in the history of US-Africa relations,comes in the context of mounting concerns over the Ebola scare that continues to ravage the West African region.How to effectively respond to the virulent epidemic that has claimed scores of lives will undoubtedly feature in the summit.
The Obama administration has in recent weeks come under serious fire and relentless flak for allegedly putting the African continent on the back-banner in its foreign policy.Diplomacy experts and pundits opine that the summit could be an attempt by the Obama administration to placate these concerns and reassure African leaders of it’s commitment to the continent.
Without a doubt ,the American administration has had too much in it’s plate to engage actively with Africa creating a yawning void that China has gleefully moved pell-mell to fill.This is not surprising as the Eastwood re-balancing has been a major part of the American foreign policy which this administration has aggressively pursued.Unsavory developments in the middle East,Ukraine,The Korean Peninsula, Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq have all but sapped US diplomatic energy.
Trade between China and Africa has been roughly $100US Billion surpassing US-Africa trade at $85 US billion.This summit will also seek to slow down China’s growing footprint on the continent to the chagrin of the American policymakers.
Obama is also expected,in quintessential fashion,to take the bull by it’s horns by taking head on the African presidents for their dictatorial antics.Scores of regimes on the continent have embarked on ruthless campaigns that militate against the sacrosanct principles and tenets of democratic statecraft.State sanctioned violation of human rights,silencing of anti-establishment voices,corruption and constitutional tinkering to prolong presidential terms are some of the vices perpetrated by the African demi-gods that may attract censure from the American leader.
A controversial subject that has put Africa and America on a coalition course has been the issue of homosexuality.Some African governments have criminalized homosexual behavior subjecting culprits of this abnormality to hefty penalties viewed by the West as unwarranted and unacceptable.
Thanks to it’s passing into law a bill criminalizing homosexuality,the West withdrew aid to the tune of billions of shilling from Uganda. In fact the American government has threatened to deal in the same way with any country that criminalizes gay behavior.This summit may offer an ideal setting to impress upon African leaders on the obligation that they have to treat homosexuals with dignity.
It would be indeed interesting to see how the continents leaders respond to Obama’s lecture given their pathological aversion to Western narratives however valid they are.