Many felt that, under Obama’s presidency, America was lagging behind many other countries — especially China, India, Brazil, and even smaller economies, such as Turkey — in its engagement with Africa.
In 2013 … the president announced actual initiatives that aim to deepen commercial relations, support regional trade logistics, and enhance security. Also significant was the announcement of the first US-Africa Leaders Summit, to be held the following year in Washington.
Obama indicated that he would visit Africa at least one more time during his presidency. The expectation is that this trip will be later in 2015, but most likely in 2016—his last full year in office. Given that planning for U.S. presidential trips overseas require months, if not years, of planning, it is a good bet that the planning for the next African trip will soon be underway.
I propose that the president’s last in-office trip to Africa cover at least the following countries: Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Kenya.
Nigeria … is the most important country in Africa, and it is the country that has the most influence on the direction that Africa takes…Nigeria has, in recent years, undertaken major reforms that are helping stimulate the economy and shift away from an over-reliance on oil exports.
By all accounts, Nigeria can be considered the African anchor: Whatever happens in that country has large spillover effects across the continent…The president could use such a visit to articulate a strategy to fight terrorism, not only in Nigeria but across the continent.
Ethiopia still lags far behind other countries in deregulating some key sectors of the economy — especially telecommunications, land markets, banking, and finance.
This country deserves a visit by president Obama for a number of reasons. First, the leadership in Addis Ababa has demonstrated a willingness to reform. Although it remains work in progress, the reform process is on a positive trajectory, and is a good example for other African countries to follow. Second, the country is an important ally in the war against terrorism, and has been pivotal in efforts to neutralize al-Shabaab.
Finally, the president should use an Ethiopian trip to visit the headquarters of the African Union, located in Addis Ababa. A visit to the A.U. by a U.S. president would be a significant endorsement of the role the continental organization plays, and would, indeed, be the best forum for which to hold the next US-Africa Leaders Summit.As the country of president Obama’s father, Kenya must be included in the itinerary. Kenya has made major political and economic reforms in recent decades. It now has one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, and the implementation of this constitution is continuing steadily. It is the largest economy in East Africa, and a leader in the integration of the East African Community.
Kenya is emerging as Africa’s innovation hub, too, and has also been at the forefront on the war against terrorism.
The Writer Mwangi S. Kimenyi is a senior fellow at the U.S. Brookings Institution’s Africa initiative.