Newly re-elected US President Barack Obama has been urged to focus on boosting trade relations with Africa and work towards re-directing private investments to the continent’s fast growing telecommunication industry, experts said.
The US leader was also advised to take a cue from China, which is establishing strong trade relations with Africa.
“It is Africa’s hope now that Obama has been re-elected, that he will do more, including establishing stronger trading relations like China have done,” said Dr Bitange Ndemo, Kenya’s information Ministry Permanent Secretary.
Dr. Ndemo, a respected ICT expert credited with driving Kenya’s telecom revolution, spoke after President Obama was re-elected in Tuesday’s election.
For his part, Chris Kirubi, a Kenyan industrialist and the owner of one of the biggest private radio stations in Kenya, said: “We hope to see more partnerships in sectors like Information Technology (IT), health, education and agriculture that can help us (Kenya) grow.”
Another Kenyan IT expert, Tom Gitaa, who is based in Minnesota, US, said he is more optimistic about President Obama’s second term.
“I believe Obama will have Africa on (his) priority list. Second-term Presidents historically spend more time on foreign affairs,” said Gitaa, who is among the first group of Kenyans who originated the country’s ICT revolution in the 1990s and went ahead to set up the Mwananchi network, one of Africa’s original ICT firms.
In his congratulatory message to President Obama, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki said Nairobi looked forward to the deepening trade ties with the US.
Unlike his predecessors, President Obama has not left a permanent mark in the US relations with Africa, although during his first term he defended the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA), initiated by President Bill Clinton, to offer African goods unfettered market access into the US.
China has engaged in Africa’s energy sector, offering to revive stalled mining projects in several countries.
Chinese firms have also entered most African countries to engage in businesses in the various sectors, igniting controversy over what many called its skewed engagement in the continent.
However, experts said the US must try to beat China’s record in building close ties with Africa.
“In economic terms, Obama’s administration presided over the decline of some of the specific support packages he inherited from the George Bush administration,” Kenya’s former Trade Minister Mukhisa Kituyi wrote in an opinion article on the Daily Nation Thursday.
He said the US President had done little since his address in Egypt, which preceded the Arab Spring, and was responsible for the failure to secure a more comprehensive agreement to replace the AGOA.