What you need to know:
- What can we expect of him in his second term? What should we do to squeeze more out of his administration? In his first term, President Obama was a disappointment for Africa.
- Obama has made the African engagement with European Union under Economic Partnership Agreements sound like a generous deal by just pretending that lifting duty on a small basket of products is all it takes to grow solidarity with the land of his father.
- Because we love our son, we have been in a hurry to excuse these failings. The American economy has been in bad shape. The domestic rivals were forcing his attention to remain local.
The resounding victory of Barack Obama over Mitt Romney has understandably elicited great joy and celebration in Kenya and much of Africa.
For a country so weighed down by the anxieties of a disruptive election season, we needed something to be happy about.
And Obama gives it to us on the cheap. Brand Obama has built such international solidarity and moral authority that we feel proud to be associated with it.
A BBC pundit tweeted that the American election is like a marathon, and that in matters marathon he will always place his bet on a Kenyan.
The double association of the candidate with our country and invoking one of the few other causes for our sense of pride rouses those patriotic passions that need not seek grounding in rationality. Bring on the bulls.
Yet after the celebrations are over, after the feel-good spirit has dissipated, we will need to think clear again. What has Obama done for us since he became President?
What can we expect of him in his second term? What should we do to squeeze more out of his administration? In his first term, President Obama was a disappointment for Africa.
While the world remembers his speech at Cairo University, Egypt, as a defining moment in the run-up to the Arab Spring Revolution, there has not been any moment in his presidency that could be seen as epochal in relation to Sub-Saharan Africa.
Indeed in economic terms, Obama’s administration presided over the decline of the specific support packages he inherited from George Bush.
It is ironical that the much maligned and apparently under-exposed George Bush presided over the most systematic expansion of a US-Africa social and economic engagement in the history of our continent.
He expanded and enhanced African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), increased the resource envelope and the reach of the Millennium Challenge Account. He enhanced the support to the Global Malaria and HIV funds. (READ: CLINTON: How the partnership between US and African States is helping the people)
Under Obama, the dialogue about structured engagement for a new compact to succeed Agoa in 2015 was scuttled. Economic diplomacy has shifted from addressing supply side challenges and trade facilitation to a selective menu of negotiating free trade areas.
Obama has made the African engagement with European Union under Economic Partnership Agreements sound like a generous deal by just pretending that lifting duty on a small basket of products is all it takes to grow solidarity with the land of his father.
Because we love our son, we have been in a hurry to excuse these failings. The American economy has been in bad shape. The domestic rivals were forcing his attention to remain local.
The package of programmes he inherited can hold while he reflects on how best to help us. We have all looked to explain why he was doing little for us. This is the burden of unconditional love.
As he embarks upon his new mandate, Obama is in a position to rewrite the heritage of his relations with his father’s continent. With the US economy recovering and the burden of thinking long-term lifted, he has the opportunity to listen more to African voices.
He has to be encouraged to understand that Africa craves a respect his America has been reluctant to accord it. That it is not enough to be lectured about the threat of Chinese colonisation the way his Secretary of State has become fond of doing.
One area in which an Obama Administration is likely to build upon the foundations already laid is in the area of governance.
The clear statement of siding with the people against dictators and kleptomaniacs has been very consistent from his speech at Nairobi University in 2006 to the one at the University of Ghana in 2009.
One can expect a more systematic engagement on matters of impunity and democratic deficit.
As Kenya heads into an election wrought with divisive themes and actors, one expects that US position especially on the role to be played by persons indicted at the International Criminal Court will become clearer and louder.
Solidarity with institutions necessary for protecting the democratic gains of recent years like an independent Judiciary and strengthening the new devolved system should be an area of interest.
At the end of the day, the greatest benefit Africa in general and Kenya in particular can derive from the 44th President of the United States must derive from a nation getting its act right, thinking clearly about where we want to go and engaging the US on the basis of sound self-interest.
Otherwise, the bulls we slaughter to celebrate the Obama victory will linger as the only testimony of fading ties that bind this clever American and the land of his ancestors.
Dr Kituyi is a director of the Kenya Institute of Governance [email protected]