VOICE OF LIBERTY AFRICA: Obama is here in the name and for the sake of America – Japheth Omojuwa

President Obama is not in Africa because of what the United States can give to Africa, he is in Africa because of what the United States can get from Africa. If you are an African, this reality should excite you. Africa is not being flirted with because it has nothing to offer and desperately needs the helping hand of its age-long Santa Claus, Africa is being flirted with because in Africa lies immense opportunities for American companies to make money. When an American president travels, he moves with businessmen. The businessmen are the ones who return (for those who don’t stay) as soon as the trip is done to follow up on the opportunities created by the president’s visit. The US president will be visiting Tanzania (East Africa), Senegal (West Africa) and South Africa.

The Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obamas-trip-to-africa-poses-special-challenges-enormous-costs/2013/06/13/29d9270a-cd29-11e2-8845-d970ccb04497_story.html has focused on the cost of Obama’s trip at a time of tightening budget. The trip is expected to cost between $60m – $100m according to the Washington Post. The security of the president coupled with the fact that unlike in visits to more developed countries, the American government would have to provide most of its security if not all. The president has come under knocks for this trip but that has come mostly from those who think Africa has nothing to offer. China thinks differently though and it is making the most of the African opportunity. America could be thinking about a renewed challenge to the Chinese invasion.

Security and HIV/AIDS will be a dominant part of the media appearances but American commercial interests will be more dominant – less dominant on TV though. $30 billion or so are needed to develop gas fields and the construction of other related facilities in East Africa. American company General Electric intends to sell more gas turbines in Africa than in America over the next three years. The gas discoveries of this region are the most significant finds in the world this century. Each visit to a country is much more about the region than individual countries. Discussions will involve meeting leaders from most of the representatives of the different regions.

Africa is a land of opportunities. The only sad part of this is that most Africans are not aware of this reality. Africa is a major primary product supplier to the world’s economies. Africa’s 5.4% (IMF) growth forecast for 2013 will mostly depend on the export of natural resources. US exports to Africa have grown in geometric terms. It grew by 23% in 2011 from its 2010 numbers to $21.1 billion. It has grown by some 350% since the year 2000. The much-troubled American auto industry has found much succor here as exports to Africa have increased by almost 50% while the aircraft industry exported $1.5billion worth of parts to Africa. Google has more click-throughs in Africa than it does developed Western Europe. America sees Africa as a continent it needs for the future than it does for today but even today’s numbers make Africa a worthy partner.

Half of the continent’s 1.1 billion population is under 20. The number is just 28% for China. China’s inevitable 10 million job losses over the next decade will find their way to Africa. The continent will by 2040 provide the world with its largest working population. The continent is home to most of the world’s arable land. Its aviation industry is full of gaps that can be bridged for profits. It is a continent of 54 countries as the opportunities are just as diverse. America under the Clinton administration set up the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) due for expiration in 2015. The idea was about increasing (select) African exports to America. It has not enjoyed the attention it did under the Clinton administration even as president Obama did not come up with a concrete African strategy until 2012.

The American public has criticized what they see as a needless trip to Africa by their president. They need to be informed that the president is in Africa for Africa’s sake also. The primary reason for this trip is much more about what is in it for America than what Africa could get. This is not a bad thing as long as Africa looks at this the way it should be seen; Africa’s interest should be about trade much more than anything else. Africa has no profit to make through aid and this trip is about profits.

Japheth Omojuwa is @omojuwa on twitter

There is the trade side to the visit of Obama and Africa needs to see it says Omojuwa