AFRICANGLOBE – In 2008, the whole world applauded the United States for electing its first African-American president. No part of the world was happier than the continent of Africa with its 54 nations. After all, this president was half Caucasian and half Kenyan. He was a direct child of Africa, not just a descendent.
But to everyone’s surprise disappointment, President Obama during his first four years showed very little love for his father’s homeland. In fact, when African heads of state (President/Prime Minister) would request a meeting with this new president, they were denied. Even the First Lady of Kenya requested a short meeting with our First Lady and she was told in so many words, that will never happen.
As we visited various nations in Africa, we noticed that the disappointment started morphing into anger. We all thought that relations between Africa and our business entities would improve based on the person elected to lead the largest economy on earth. No, it didn’t happen. China, India, Pakistan, Turkey, etc. saw their relationships with African nations improving.
It is only natural that you love the one who loves you back. So, the billions of annual dollars that Africa trades with started to go at an increasing rate to nations other than America.
China kicks off summits
With the United States having an African-American president, our business competitors picked up their game. China kicked it off with an “African Summit.” Their president invited every African president to come to its capital Beijing and receive heavy love. They entertained them lavishly. Even gave one big State dinner in the historical Great Hall. They gave them $20 billion in financial aid with a promise of another $10 billion. The president of China promised to provide financial loans for every major project they plan as long as a Chinese firm was performing the contract.
Japan, China and Russia
Next came Japan, which hosted its African Summit in Tokyo. The Japanese president gave 15 minutes of personal time with each of the 46 participating heads of state. The nation chipped in $30 billion in financial aid plus the funding of 10,000 internships for young African entrepreneurs and students.
India and the European Union had their African Summits also. Even Russia is now getting into the “Love Africa Movement.” They are providing financial aid and lending power to the continent. They are leveraging this positive relationship to gain needed votes at the UN as they start attacking their neighboring nations.
Evidently, as President Obama reflects on his legacy, he has decided to do something — even if it is token. If he needs to make up for lost opportunities, he had better do something fabulous. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Finally, he has called for an African Summit – August 4 – 6. All of us leaped in joy but as the itinerary is being formed, there seems to be a lot missing.
As opposed to the summits of our competitors, no African head of state will receive a one-on-one with our president. They will be herded into a room for some “interactive dialogue.” What? They are supposed to come all the way over here for a lecture? The Senate will hold some meetings with them. Cabinet secretaries have been instructed to have some meetings with the contingent. This is insulting. A president is supposed to meet with the other presidents. A cabinet secretary is a subordinate to a president.
Still not allowed at the table
The next event has me scratching my head. They are going to, at last, have a state dinner.
But it won’t be in the formal White House. No, these African presidents will be escorted to the lawn of the White House. Where’s the love? They can’t even sit on the White House furniture and eat with exquisite china and such. No, it’s the lawn for these African leaders.
By: Harry C. Alford
Mr. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce