As an African-American president with a Kenyan father, President Barack Obama has been extremely popular in Africa since the start of his first term. But that popularity hasn’t necessarily worked out to the benefit of African countries and citizens. As Adekeye Adebajo, executive director of the South Africa-based Centre for Conflict Resolution, wrote recently in Business Day, Obama has fallen far short of his pledges in most areas concerning Africa, including security, governance, education and energy.
Job Creation Falls Far Short
Obama’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition was launched in 2012. While Washington sought to create 650,000 jobs and benefit more than 5 million smallholder farmers, by August of last year only 37,000 jobs had been created — though 3 million smallholder farmers had reportedly been reached, according to Adebajo. There have been harsh charges directed at the program — namely that it has benefited large foreign agri-business at the expense of African smallholders. Critics have also said the program forces African governments to change laws in favor of foreign investors.
Power Africa Off to Dim Start
President Obama in 2013 told a cheering crowd in Cape Town that a $7 billion plan to “Power Africa” would double electricity output on the continent. Obama promised to provide electricity to 20 million Africans by 2018, two years after he leaves office. But African insiders don’t see that happening. According to a November 2014 report by Reuters, though on the surface it appears that Power Africa has already achieved 25 percent of its goal to deliver 10,000 megawatts of electricity and bring light to 20 million households and businesses. But the five-year plan has not measured its progress by counting actual megawatts added to the grid. Instead it is counting promises of additional power made in deals it says it helped negotiate, according to sources inside the project and documents seen by Reuters. In some cases, projects were underway years before the scheme’s inception, while others are still in the planning stage. “Saying you’ve met targets on projects that might never happen or taking the credit for projects that have been worked on for years makes me uncomfortable,” a source working on Power Africa told Reuters. “It’s misleading.”