Barack Obama

President Obama to host U.S.-Africa Summit

President Obama has invited African leaders for a summit in Washington D.C. from August 4-6 next week. More than 200 business and political leaders from both the U.S. and Africa will be attending the summit which will focus on the continent’s development and the U.S. role in partnership and investment.

Obama invited all African nations that are currently in good standing with the United States or are not suspended from the African Union. Leaders from Egypt, Madagascar, Sudan and Zimbabwe will not be attending.  Egypt, is not eligible to attend as it is currently suspended from the African Union.  There will also be no invitation for Sudan, whose president, Omar al-Bashir, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).  The United States has sanctions against the Zimbabwean government of Robert Mugabe and his key officials over human rights abuses, political intimidation of opposition parties and role back of democracy.

Guinea-Bissau and Madagascar will not be attending the summit as well. The U.S. has concerns over the subversion of democracy in both nations.

One notable inclusion is Kenya, where President Uhuru Kenyatta is currently awaiting a delayed trial at the ICC on charges related to violence after an election in 2007 that left 1,000 people dead.

A White House statement said the trip would “advance the administration’s focus on trade and investment in Africa, and highlight America’s commitment to Africa’s security, its democratic development, and its people.”

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker when speaking to the Wall Street Journal, said deals worth billions of dollars would be reached at the meeting, adding that more money would be advanced to Africa for various development projects.

First Lady Michelle Obama, and former First Lady Laura Bush and the Bush Institute, will host a day-long spouses’ symposium at the Kennedy Center focused on the impact of investments in education, health, and public-private partnerships as well.

Throughout his years in office, President Obama has held numerous conferences and events focusing on building partnerships and investment for African nations. This upcoming summit is a continuation of that policy.

More information about the event can be found at the White House’s website.

Advertisements

President Obama Applauds “Successful” Southern Sudan Referendum

In Monday statement, Obama says U.S. to formally recognize sovereign state in July.

On behalf of the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Southern Sudan for a successful and inspiring referendum in which an overwhelmingly majority of voters chose independence.  I am therefore pleased to announce the intention of the United States to formally recognize Southern Sudan as a sovereign, independent state in July 2011.

After decades of conflict, the images of millions of southern Sudanese voters deciding their own future was an inspiration to the world and another step forward in Africa’s long journey toward justice and democracy.  Now, all parties have a responsibility to ensure that this historic moment of promise becomes a moment of lasting progress.  The Comprehensive Peace Agreement must be fully implemented and outstanding disputes must be resolved peacefully.  At the same time, there must be an end to attacks on civilians in Darfur and a definitive end to that conflict.

As I pledged in September when addressing Sudanese leaders, the United States will continue to support the aspirations of all Sudanese—north and south, east and west.  We will work with the governments of Sudan and Southern Sudan to ensure a smooth and peaceful transition to independence.  For those who meet all of their obligations, there is a path to greater prosperity and normal relations with the United States, including examining Sudan’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.  And while the road ahead will be difficult, those who seek a future of dignity and peace can be assured that they will have a steady partner and friend in the United States.

Here is a past article about the vote for independence and the worried outcomes from it.

Bookmark and Share

Obama sweet for African Businesses

 

Obama biscuits are wrapped at the United Biscuit factory in Ghana.

 

It seems that Barack Obama is having a stimulus effect on African businesses, entrepreneurs and the results are rather sweet.

ACCRA, Ghana—The expansion of a small cookie factory on this city’s outskirts offers a glimpse of how Obamamania in Africa is developing from a fad into a lasting brand for local companies across the continent, even as the U.S. president’s popularity takes a hit at home.

Marc Skaf, a portly man of Lebanese-French stock, is the managing director of United Biscuit Ltd., maker of the “Obama biscuit.” Mr. Skaf is overseeing the expansion of the company’s main factory, which during peak production churns out 2.8 million biscuits a day. The Obama biscuit accounts for about 60% of current production. The round cookie stamped with the company’s logo comes in regular, ginger flavor and the latest, ChocObama. Its package bears an image of Mr. Obama, and can be found in small roadside shops across Ghana.

Many in Africa consider Mr. Obama, whose father was Kenyan, one of their own. During his visit to Ghana in July 2009, thousands of spectators wearing T-shirts or traditional fabric bearing the president’s image lined the streets to catch a glimpse of his motorcade.

That popularity inspired African entrepreneurs. In the months surrounding Mr. Obama’s Ghana visit, hundreds of shops, bars, restaurants and hotels across the continent adopted the Obama name. Dozens of companies put Obama on their products, including bottled water, bubble gum and beer.

A year later, many of these products are still selling well, highlighting an African consumer trend that could be termed “brand Obama.”

This summer, Mr. Skaf noticed that a Chinese company had begun exporting Obama crackers to Ghana from China. Mr. Skaf says he has plans to release his own Obama cracker soon.

Requests to the White House to comment on the proliferation of Obama products in Africa went unanswered.

Obama biscuits are packaged to be sent out to stores.

KenAfric Industries Ltd., one of the biggest confectionery makers in Kenya, sells Magic Obama Bubblegum (strawberry and orange flavored). In Zambia you can buy Obama-branded whiskey and brandy. And in several countries, including semi-autonomous Somaliland, you can eat at the Obama Restaurant or the Obama Cafe.

“There was a definite increase in sales around the time Obama announced his candidature,” says John Mwongera, head of sales at KenAfric Industries. Now, however, Mr. Mwongera says, sales of the Obama candies are “purely driven by the usual market forces and branding activities.”

The Obama brand may be most developed in Ghana. In Accra, the capital, there is the Obama Hotel, where a portrait of the president hangs in the busy lobby; guests can stay in the Joe Biden room. On the road to the United Biscuit factory, travelers pass roadside artists; one is selling portraits of boxer Mike Tyson, an unidentified woman in a green bikini, and Mr. Obama, depicted in traditional Ghanaian dress.

For five months after Mr. Obama’s Ghana visit, the United Biscuit factory produced only Obama biscuits. Demand eventually tapered off, and Obama biscuits now account for just 60% of the factory’s production.

Mr. Skaf, who has lived in West Africa for more than 20 years, still faces obstacles to further growth. The price of flour—which makes up more than two-thirds of each biscuit—went up 80% recently, without explanation from flour importers.

But Mr. Skaf has big plans for the Obama biscuit. Expansion work on his factory is now almost complete. The company has hired additional staff to supplement the 250 he now employs. In August, he rolled out the newest flavor: ChocObama. He is planning another big push for the biscuits in November, as the holiday season rolls around, including an ad campaign—the company’s first.

“It’s the best idea I’ve ever had,” says Mr. Skaf. “In America he is not popular right now. The war, the economy, the oil spill. But here he’s still popular, and I don’t think that will be changing anytime soon.”

While an August Gallup poll reported that a majority of Americans, 51%, disapproved of Mr. Obama’s performance as president, in Africa his name continues to be a good way for businesses to attract attention and customers.

“Regardless of the status of President Obama’s popularity in the U.S., he continues to be enormously popular in Africa and his name and image are co-opted for many uses,” says David Easterbrook, curator of the Herskovits Library of African Studies at Northwestern University, which has been collecting publications and objects from Africa that use Mr. Obama’s name and image.

Despite the challenges, the Obama Biscuits brand is well-established in Ghana. Mr. Skaf introduces himself around town as the “guy who makes Obama biscuits.” His factory manager also has been given a nickname.

“Every day on my drive to work people point and yell at me, ‘Obama!’ ” says United Biscuits manager Elie Abou Jaoude. “They don’t know my real name, so they call me Obama.”

A good entrepreneur never misses a good business opportunity.

Bookmark and Share

President Obama hosts forum with young African leaders

Last week was a remarkable week. Known as “Africa week”,  three major Africa-related programs were held: The President’s Forum with Young African Leaders, the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act Forum, and the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program.

I will first cover the President’s forum.  It was a town hall style event with 115 young leaders from across Africa.  The president addressed the questions and concerns of young people from across the continent.

President Obama spent an hour talking with some of the young leaders of African civil society, in an unprecedented forum in the East Room of the White House.

He called Africa “the youngest continent,” and said that because a large percentage of Africans are under 30-years-old, his administration especially needs to reach the continent’s young people.

“If all you are doing is talking to old men like me, then you are not reaching the people who are going to be providing the energy, the new initiatives, the new ideas,” said President Obama. “And so we thought that it would be very important for us to bring the next generation of leaders together.”

The talks come as civil society and private sector leaders from more than 40 sub-Saharan countries had three days of talks in Washington, with 17 of these countries celebrating 50 years of independence in 2010.

Michelle Gavin, the senior director of African affairs at the US National Security Council, said the meetings are in keeping with the spirit of Obama’s remarks when he visited Ghana, west Africa last year.

“We’re partners, but we’re not the drivers,” Gavin told reporters at the State Department, recalling Obama said the future of Africa is up to Africans themselves.

“And the real drivers are African youth. It’s the lion’s share of the society. And they’re going to determine what the next 50 years will bring,” Gavin said.

The president encouraged the young leaders to stand up for democracy.

“If you are part of an organization where you have professed democracy, but women do not have an equal voice in your organization, then you are a hypocrite,” said Mr. Obama.

President Obama addressed questions about Africa’s most troubled countries – Zimbabwe and Somalia.
Sidney Chisi, who founded the Youth Initiative for Democracy in Zimbabwe, raised a concern about abuses committed by his country’s president.

“Robert Mugabe is still using the rhetoric of sanctions, racism, property rights abuse and human rights abuse, in violation of the rule of law,” said Sidney Chisi.  Mr. Obama said he is “heartbroken” by the situation in Zimbabwe – a country, he said, that should be the “breadbasket of Africa.”

“I think Mugabe is an example of a leader who came in as a liberation fighter, and – I am just going to be very blunt – I do not see him serving his people well,” said President Obama.  The president said he would like to increase diplomatic and economic ties with Zimbabwe.  But he said he fears that doing so would entrench Mr. Mugabe’s rule.

The leader of the Somali Youth Leadership Forum, Abdi Najma Ahmed, then asked whether Americans are prepared to give financial and moral support to those working for democracy in Somalia.

“And being part of the diaspora that went back to risk our lives in order to make Somalia a better place – especially with what we are going through right now – how much support do we expect from the U.S.,” asked Abdi Najma Ahmed.
Mr. Obama responded by saying that Americans and the U.S. government desperately want Somalia to succeed.

“I think you will have enormous support from the people of the United States when it comes to trying to create a structure and framework in Somalia that works for the Somali people,” said Mr. Obama.  He said American and Somali interests intersect, which he also said is true of other African nations.

Shamima Muslim, who hosts a radio program in Ghana, said her listeners sometimes question the U.S. commitment to its relationships in Africa.  “Is America committed to ensuring a partnership that might not necessarily be beneficial to America, but [is] truly beneficial to the sovereign interests of the countries that we represent,” asked Shamima Muslim.

Mr. Obama replied that the interests of the United States and Africa often overlap, and that America has a huge interest in seeing development across Africa.

“We are a more mature economy and Africa is a young and growing economy,” he said. “And if you can buy more iPods and buy more products and buy more services and buy more tractors from us, that we can sell to a fast-growing continent, that creates jobs here in the United States of America.”

The president also took questions from young leaders from Mali, Liberia, Mozambique and Malawi.

He said that while corruption is still widespread in some African countries, the continent is on the move, thanks to its inspiring young people.

In his speech in Accra, Ghana, last year, Obama told African audiences of the need to advance entrepreneurship, education and the use of technology to help integrate Africa more fully into the global economy. Africa’s share of world trade is less than 2 percent, and Africa’s tremendous wealth in natural resources has not translated into greater prosperity for its people.

The Obama administration is dedicating significant resources to address some of these challenges. The $3.5 billion food-security initiative called Feed the Future helps 12 African-focus countries in modernizing their farm sectors. And the United States is working with African partners to maximize economic development and trade through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which is holding its annual meeting at the same time as the young leaders’ forum.

“These steps are about more than growth numbers on a balance sheet. They’re about whether a young person with an education can get a job that supports a family; a farmer can transfer their goods to market; an entrepreneur with a good idea can start a business,” Obama said. “It’s about the dignity of work; it’s about the opportunity that must exist for Africans in the 21st century.”

The United States has helped foster Africa’s trading capacity through AGOA. U.S. imports and exports from the 38 AGOA-eligible nations totaled $104.52 billion in 2008, a 28 percent increase from the previous year. Complete trade figures for 2009 are being compiled, but give an indication of another good year, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

But Obama also said in Accra that the future of Africa is up to Africans. “The U.S. government’s role in [the young leaders’ forum] is as a convener, encouraging networks between young American and African leaders, and pursuing lasting partnerships on behalf of our common security and prosperity,” the White House said. “This dialogue and follow-up events in Africa will help the U.S. government better assess how to support Africa’s own aspirations going forward.”

In Ghana, Obama told Africans that “in the 21st century, capable, reliable and transparent institutions are the key to success — strong parliaments; honest police forces; independent judges; an independent press; a vibrant private sector; a civil society. Those are the things that give life to democracy, because that is what matters in people’s everyday lives.”

This year 17 nations across sub-Saharan Africa are celebrating 50 years of independence. Since the early 1990s, democracy has made significant strides. Democratic elections have been held recently in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Mauritius and Ghana, which illustrates the importance that Africans have placed on democracy and democratic values, the White House said.

The young African leaders also met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, other government officials and civil society leaders.  This is what Secretary Clinton said about the importance of Africa.

I see Africa as a continent brimming with potential, a place that has so much just waiting to be grasped. Sixty percent of the population of Africa is under the age of 25. And that means that there’s a lot of work to be done to make sure that those young people are educated, are healthy, are motivated, are given the tools of opportunity. But it also means that Africa has not just the potential, but the promise of becoming a leader in innovation, in design, in creativity of all that you, your families, communities, and countries can become.”

The Secretary continued, “Across Africa, more citizens believe they now have the power and the duty to shape their own lives, to help their communities, to hold their governments accountable. So for all of the challenges, which we hear much about, I want to focus on these gains, because it is through this positive progress that we can motivate and incentivize even more to take place. And ultimately, it is up to you. The President and I very much believe in Africa’s promise and we can do what’s possible from afar to assist and to be front-row cheerleaders, if you will. But ultimately, it is up to you, and to citizens like you to make sure that we sustain and deepen the progress.

This event comes at a time when Africa has seen its relationship enhanced both strategically and economically by Washington.

“We feel when you look at the continent of Africa and the strategic significance on a go-forward basis, in terms of resources and frankly from trade and other relationships, we see this as a great opportunity to reach out to young leaders from across the continent,” McHale told reporters.

I think it is a great opportunity where African Young leader would be inspired with the sublime democracy spirit from Washington that African needs to build their future to the coming generations, to defeat diseases, to fight terror & conflicts and wars a great move toward peace building eradicating Disease such as HIV/AIDS, Malira , USA always stands with other nations. The White House & the Department of State are playing a great role in bringing nations together into a great Human Harmony.

Here is video of the event.

Bookmark and Share