Business Daily Africa, September 29, 2010

By Fredrick Njehu

The year 2008 was memorable not only for Americans, but the entire world when Barack Obama was elected US president.

Having written a new chapter in world history, Americans were poised for a change that they were yearning for.

Africa was not left behind as many were optimistic that its relations with US would be a catalyst to development on the continent.

The Obama administration came at a time when the United States was tackling rising unemployment and the global financial crisis and that’s what might have undermined any intentions regarding Africa.

So far, not so many details have emerged regarding Obama’s foreign policy and most are still waiting to see positive impacts.

Fast forward to September 2010 during the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit in New York, Obama reassured the world that United States will be a global leader in international development in the 21st century through engaging with major multilateral development institutions.

Transform continent

It was the first time in history that the US had announced a global development policy which outlines a new approach that will guide its overall development efforts including the plan to pursue the Millennium Development Goals.

Put simply, the United States is changing the way we do business.

With such a strategy in place, its now up to African leaders to seize the opportunities that a positive trade-enhancing Obama development policy offers in order to transform the continent and pull their population out of poverty, disease and misery.

Laying strategies to reap from US Foreign policy will be the ultimate task to our African leaders who flocked to New York for the MDG summit.

First and foremost, they will need to re-evaluate how effective previous tools of US administration have impacted on lives of Africans.

These tools include, bilateral investment treaties and trade preference schemes, particularly, the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA), and US Trade and investment framework (TIFA)

East Africa does not feature prominently in US-Africa trade and investment relations and this calls for strategic intervention by its leaders.

In July and August 2009, President Obama and Hilary Clinton visited Africa respectively.

However, US-African policy cannot be wholly judged by sentiments that President Obama and Hillary Clinton made during their visits, but on how African leaders strategies to strengthen ties with the United States.

The writer is a researcher at CUTS Africa Resource Centre, Nairobi (

This article can also be viewed at: