Overblog
Suivre ce blog
Editer l'article Administration Créer mon blog
6 août 2014 3 06 /08 /août /2014 07:45
Late to the party, Obama seeks bigger U.S. Africa role

 

04 August 2014 defenceWeb (Reuters)

 

Ask Major-General Wayne W. Grigsby Jr., the top U.S. military officer in Africa, how he thinks U.S. and European-backed African troops are faring in their war on Islamist militants in Somalia, and his answer comes back smartly: "Pretty darn good!".

 

But when "son of Africa" U.S. President Barack Obama hosts 50 African leaders in Washington this week, the admiration may be less than mutual. Many Africans feel America is lagging behind China and others in its engagement with their continent.

 

The Aug. 4-6 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, billed by U.S. officials as a first-of-its-kind event, looks like a belated imitation of Africa gatherings hosted in recent years by China, India, Japan and the continent's former colonial master Europe.

 

The world's richest nation has been slow coming to the party of an economically rising Africa, long dismissed as a hopeless morass of poverty and war, but now offering investors a huge market for everything from banking and retail to mobile phones.

 

"The United States has fallen perhaps a little bit behind in the race to win African hearts and minds. So I think this is an attempt to compete with the likes of China and the European Union," said Christopher Wood, an analyst in economic diplomacy at the South African Institute of International Affairs.

 

The top U.S. diplomat for Africa, Linda Thomas-Greenfield bridles at suggestions that the Obama administration is playing catch-up. "Absolutely not," she said.

 

"Our relationship with Africa is a very strong historic relationship ... We see this as an opportunity to reaffirm that to African leaders," she said in a pre-summit conference call.

 

CHINA RACES AHEAD

 

China overtook the United States as Africa's biggest trade partner in 2009. Its leaders have criss-crossed the continent, proffering multi-billion dollar loans, aid and investment deals.

 

From Malabo to Maputo, Africa is studded with signs of Beijing's diplomatic and commercial outreach: Chinese-built roads, bridges, airports, stadiums, ministries and presidencies.

 

Since 2009, Obama, despite his African blood through a Kenyan father, has been a far less frequent visitor. His first substantial trip to the continent was only made last year.

 

Washington's many embassies in Africa - imposing concrete fortresses built to protect against angry mobs or terrorist attacks - project a cautious engagement from an Obama administration highly sensitive to a home public which has no appetite for overseas interventions after Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

Even U.S. Army Major-General Grigsby, surrounded by F-18s, C130 transports, helicopters and Humvees at his Camp Lemonnier toehold in the turbulent Horn of Africa, acknowledges the U.S. military's "small footprint" on a continent where flaring Islamist insurgencies are stirring international concern.

 

Security, governance and democracy will be on the agenda when Obama engages the leaders in an "interactive" discussion on Wednesday, following business talks with U.S. CEOs on Tuesday and discussions about health and wildlife trafficking on Monday.

 

Presidents Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan are among a few left off the invitation list because they are not "in good standing" with Washington for failing to respect human rights and democracy.

 

Presidents Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone have dropped out because of the deadly Ebola epidemic ravaging their nations. Thomas-Greenfield said ways of fighting the outbreak would be discussed at the summit.

 

TRADE IN FOCUS

 

Some concrete initiatives are expected from the meeting.

 

The United States will announce nearly $1 billion in business deals for the region, increase funding for peacekeeping in six African countries and boost food and power programmes.

 

Uppermost too will be Obama's strong recommendation for Congress to renew the African Growth Opportunity Act, or AGOA, a 14-year-old trade programme giving most African countries duty-free access to U.S. markets that expires on Sept. 30 next year.

 

Total U.S. two-way trade in Africa has actually fallen off in recent years, to about $60 billion in 2013, far eclipsed by the European Union with over $200 billion and China, whose $170 billion is a huge increase from $10 billion in 2000, according to a recent Africa in Focus post by the Brookings Institution.

 

While African leaders are keen on the AGOA renewal, Robert Besseling, Principal Africa Analyst, Economics and Country Risk, at IHS consultancy, said some are seeking better terms of trade.

 

"Some countries are skeptical about AGOA because it is oriented towards the U.S. companies and can be politically manipulated," Besseling said. For example Swaziland was cut from AGOA last month due to U.S. concerns over democracy there.

 

Obama officials are hoping to leverage U.S. corporations like General Electric Co, Caterpillar Inc and Procter & Gamble Co into more business opportunities in Africa amid intense competition from across the globe.

 

"In the boards of directors of big global U.S. companies, more and more people are raising their hands at meetings and saying 'why aren't we in Africa?'," said Toby Moffett, a former Congressman from Connecticut and a senior adviser at law firm Mayer Brown LLP, who has represented African governments.

 

Orji Uzor Kalu, a Nigerian businessman with oil, tourism and other interests in West Africa, echoed such complaints. "I'm not seeing the effort the U.S. made in Asia, they're not making the same effort in Africa," Kalu said from his Washington D.C. home.

 

BUILDING SECURITY, DEMOCRACY

 

Pointing to an Africa map showing hotspots like Somalia, Major-General Grigsby toes the line of a cautious security policy that involves keeping U.S. "boots on the ground" to a minimum while financing African peacekeeping and local training.

 

"My responsibility from a regional approach is to assist my East African teammates to be able to neutralize violent extremists and conduct their crisis response," Grigsby told Reuters at the Africa Command's Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, where some 3,500 U.S. service personnel are based.

 

Obama said last year during his Africa trip his country put "muscle behind African efforts" to fight Islamist militants or brutal warlords in the Sahel, Central Africa and Somalia.

 

Although French forces did the heavy lifting on the ground in driving back an offensive by al Qaeda-allied Islamists in Mali in 2012, Washington has stepped up training African armies and deploying surveillance drones - to Niamey and N'Djamena besides those already operating over the Horn of Africa.

 

Some of the latest U.S. initiatives have clearly played to American domestic opinion and social media campaigns, such as sending a specialist team to help Nigeria search for the more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamist group Boko Haram.

 

While U.S. officials say Washington remains influential, it may no longer wield the diplomatic clout it once had in Africa when it was squaring up to the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

 

Many noted how Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, an ally in turbulent central Africa, went ahead in February with signing into law tougher penalties against homosexuality, ignoring an appeal from Obama who warned it would "complicate" relations.

 

This kind of diplomatic slap in the face "shows they have to reboot the relationship" with Africa, IHS's Besseling said.

 

On Friday, Uganda's constitutional court struck down the law, citing procedural irregularities.

 

African leaders have made clear they do not take kindly to moral lectures from Western leaders. By contrast, Beijing's pledges of aid and investment come with "no-strings attached".

 

But Moffett believes the U.S. insistence on democracy and good governance, which U.S. officials say will be re-affirmed at the summit, reflects a real transformation underway in Africa.

 

"President (Obama) can actually say, with a straight face, that the trajectory across Africa ... (is) towards more democracy, more adherence to rule of law, more transparency, more judicial independence, less corruption.

 

"The Chinese guys don't give that speech," Moffett said.

Partager cet article

commentaires

Présentation

  • : RP Defense
  • RP Defense
  • : Web review defence industry - Revue du web industrie de défense - company information - news in France, Europe and elsewhere ...
  • Contact

Recherche

Articles Récents

  • Externalisation de la Défense et de la Sécurité en France ? - 15 Décembre
    Le Comité directeur de l'ANAJ-IHEDN a le plaisir de vous inviter à la conférence : Vers une externalisation de la Défense et de la Sécurité en France ? Guillaume FARDE Maître de conférences à Sciences Po Paris, auteur de Externaliser la sécurité et la...
  • Chronique culturelle - 24 Nov.
    24 novembre 1977 : premier vol du Super Etendard de série 24.11.2016 source JFP 24 novembre 885 : début du siège de Paris par les Vikings. Très actifs durant le IXè siècle, les Vikings ont pris l’habitude de remonter les fleuves du Nord de la France pour...
  • Sortie en librairie le 21 novembre du livre LÉGIONNAIRE
    source MAREUIL EDITIONS Pour la première fois, un ancien officier de la Légion et un Légionnaire donnent la parole à 64 de leurs camarades. Pendant 2 ans, Victor Ferreira a rencontré près d’une centaine de Légionnaires à travers le monde en leur posant...
  • Brazilian Navy H225M Naval Combat Configuration
    17 nov. 2016 Airbus Helicopters Helibras and Airbus Helicopters have opened a new chapter in the history of the H225M multirole utility helicopter with the official presentation of the first aircraft in naval combat configuration. More info Helibras and...
  • Chronique culturelle - 17 Nov.
    La Bataille du Pont d'Arcole - Horace Vernet 17.11.2016 source JFP 17 novembre 1794 : début de la bataille de la Sierra Negra (Espagne) « opposant les troupes des généraux de Pérignon et Dugommier à celles du général espagnol de Carvajal. Cette victoire...
  • Le CEAM présente le CEILDT - Centre d’Expertise et d’Instruction des Liaisons de Données Tactiques
    15 nov. 2016 CEAM Petit clip de présentation sur le Centre d’Expertise et d’Instruction des Liaisons de Données Tactiques (CEILDT). Petit clip de présentation sur le Centre d'Expertise et d'Instruction des Liaisons de Données Tactiques (CEILDT).
  • Audition de M. Marwan Lahoud, président du groupement des industries françaises aéronautiques et spatiales
    photo Aseemblée Nationale 9 novembre 2016 Commission de la défense nationale et des forces armées - Compte rendu n° 15 Présidence de Mme Patricia Adam, présidente — Audition, ouverte à la presse, de M. Marwan Lahoud, président du groupement des industries...
  • Chronique culturelle - 15 Nov.
    Jean Gabin, chef de char du Régiment Blindé de Fusiliers Marins 15.11.2016 source JFP 15 novembre 1315 : bataille de Morgarten (Suisse actuelle). Convoités à la fois par la Bavière et l'Autriche, les Cantons suisses (Uri, Schwytz et Unterwald) donnent...
  • Chammal : les artilleurs appuient les forces irakiennes
    10 nov. 2016 Ministère de la Défense Opération Chammal : les artilleurs de la Task Force Wagram appuient les forces irakiennes et participent à la sécurisation des zones conquises aux alentours de Mossoul. Opération Chammal : les artilleurs de la Task...
  • Chronique culturelle - 10 Nov.
    La bataille de Tolbiac, toile marouflée, Panthéon de Paris, France - Joseph Blanc (1846-1904) 10.11.2016 source JFP 10 novembre 496 : bataille de Tolbiac (Zulpich - Allemagne actuelle). Le roi Clovis écrase les Alamans près de l'actuelle ville de Cologne...

Categories