Tuesday, July 13, 2010


At the risk of sounding like the party bore I shall repeat what we all already know.

On Tuesday Barack Obama beat Republican John McCain to the presidency of the United States of America.

An observer listening to both candidates going about the campaign, would have concluded without a doubt that Barack was the man for the job and McCain was there to make the numbers.

But there was always the niggling sense that America could not vote for a black man. That was until the results started flowing in, for us, on Wednesday morning. It was over quicker than any presidential count in the last 20 years, with Obama giving his acceptance speech before midnight of the same day in Chicago.

To cement his right to the presidency, Obama painted broad brush strokes about what his administration would be about.

Watching on TV and reading the interviews in the papers the relief that the Bush era, with its crony capitalism—for now, had come to a close and the historic symbolism of a black man ascending to the highest office of the land was overwhelming, it even stole Jesse Jackson’s famed eloquence from his lips.

"Africa celebrated their son’s victory with a sense that this election result was good for Africa but except for some vague references about help, nobody could put a finger on how it was good for Africa...

And as is our custom, a few Obama babies were born on Wednesday morning.

Obama inherits a country that is teethering on the brink of economic collapse.

Commentators are going back to Franklin Roosevelt, ascension to the presidency in the depths of the great depression or Abraham Lincoln taking office in a divided country, gearing up for civil war to find parallels to the extent of what Obama is inheriting.

So it is only expected that in his first days in the White House, Obama will focus on unfurling the mess that Bush made.

And when he does have a moment to look abroad his priorities will be the war on terror, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Russia, the Middle East, North Korea and climate change.

Maybe in trying to improve the US image abroad he will come around to looking at Africa.

Going by our cultural standards he is a Luo, but first and foremost he is an American and America will always come first.

That being said what if within his administration – we all hope it will be an eight year one, he does come around to dealing with the African question, what will he have to work with?

"Not that he does not already know, but our continent is buckling under such poverty that the majority of Africans have been reduced to sub-human levels of existence; there is senseless conflict around every corner and corrupt governments padding the nests of an insensitive elite...

Progress is almost impossible in such an environment. It is like throwing good money after bad.

It is like the proverbial country cousin, the village bum, who comes to visit, plops himself down on your sofa and asks, “How can you help me?”

As a continent we need to ask not what Obama can do for us, but what we can do for Obama, so he can help us.

"In the euphoria of the Obama victory we seem blinded to the fact that Obama can do two terms in the White House and leave Africa very much the same or most probably worse off than it was on Wednesday and it will not be for his lack of trying...

Africa has received more aid than Europe received under the post Second World War Marshall plan, but there is little to show for it.

We need to get our act together.

We need to eliminate corruption so monies can go to building roads, revamping the education and health services and lowering the cost of doing business on the continent.

We need to commit to building strong institutions, the democratic process and sanctify property ownership rights.

That way we can make effective use of any largesse Obama can manage.

Whether Africa reaps a dividend from Obama’s presidency is really up to us. We need to help him to help us.

Published November 2008, New Vision

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