Sunday, June 23, 2013

Obama to Visit Africa

As I tell students in our EarthView program each week, "Africa is not a country." It is the second-largest continent, with about 1/7 of the world's people and a total of 55 countries (depending on how nearby islands are counted). It is far more diverse than most people realize, but it is the only continent in which nearly every country has a recent experience of colonial rule. The disadvantages of being on the periphery in a post-colonial world-space economy are therefore much more on display there than on other continents.

President Obama will soon be visiting three of those countries: Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania, and will be changing the agenda as he travels. The necessity of development aid has not disappeared, but President Obama will be shifting the attention to trade and investment. "Trade Not Aid" has been the mantra of the Fair Trade movement, and clearly the rules of the world trading regimes need to change.

Much of the media attention to the trip is --as always -- on its cost. Part of that cost, however, stems from the inclusion of 500 business people in the president's entourage. Presumably, some of them will be covering their own expenses. As reported on NPR, this first serious trade mission to the continent is partly in response to China's growing commitment there.

Source: CNN
It remains to be seen whether this visit is remembered for deepening the exploitation of African workers or for maturing the various bilateral relationships between the United States and potential partners in the region. As I prepare for my second study tour to explore Sustainable Development in Cape Verde (one of those nearby islands), I have a deep interest in the results.

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