The first 'Black' President of the United States of Africa has decided to make his first sub-Saharan Africa stop in Ghana. He could only spare just about a day, altogether, but Ghanaians, as usual, cannot be bothered about that. The whole country is caught up in the euphoria and who could begrudge us. Africa is made up of 52 countries and to be the first for such a historic event is no small matter. In an article contributed by Elizabeth Ohene to the BBC, she rightly points out how some of our African brothers and sisters elsewhere are not too enthused about this-especially those who thought they were entitled by virtue of 'blood' and those by 'size and numbers'
A lot has been written and said about the last-minute preparations and the supposed boom in street-side merchandize. This article would therefore focus on the bigger picture of where we, Ghana, go from here.
Come Sunday, July 12, 2009, the drums would be silent once again. The roads would be cleared of all the re-routing and diversion signs. It would be 'business as usual' and then what? So what exactly brought President Obama to Ghana? He tells us it is due to our relative peace and stability. The visit is also supposed to be a 'reward' for holding four successive democratic (free and fair) elections. But is that the 'true' reason for the visit?
What about that 'small' matter of AFRICOM and the military base? Not even our Oil deposits? What about our strategic location as the 'centre' of the world? (Check the Meridian and the Equator). Are we to believe that AFRICOM would not be on the agenda when the two Presidents meet in private?
President Obama has promised 'change' but can he really deliver change in U.S. foreign policy as far as Africa is concerned? He happens to be the third U.S. president to visit in 11years. I am not too sure what benefits and dividends we accrued from those 2 earlier visits. Yes, we do have to play our part but more on that later.
A couple of months back President Obama went to Egypt to deliver a major speech to the Muslim world. If the reasons given for the choice of Ghana are to be believed then I want to know how they (Obama and the U.S) arrived at the choice of Egypt. Egypt is not democratic by any definition of the word. I believe Morrocco would have been a better representative for the Muslim world; but Morrocco really has no clout when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian Issue. I believe it is for the strategic 'placement' of Egypt and its role in that whole process that led to its choice for that 'big event'.
It was a former U.S Secretary for African Affairs who said that in their (U.S) dealings with Africa, the interest of the U.S. has always been paramount. Have there been any significant efforts towards 'resolving' the Darfur problem since Obama came to power? I am not saying that it is his responsibility or even the responsibility of the U.S. No, what I am saying is that they should stop the pretence and deal truthfully with us for a change. The truth is that the West does not do anything in Africa (or anywhere else for that matter) without an ulterior motive. America is supposed to be the champion of human rights and the rule of law, right? When was the last time anybody heard the U.S. speak up against human rights abuses in China? Indeed the Secretary of State went to China and never said a word about that. When questioned, she actually made it known that there are bigger and more important issues at stake and they wouldn't want human rights issues to become the sticking point in their discussions with the Chinese. Of course what else do we expect? What with China holding so much of the U.S's debt in bonds and stocks!
So if we have truly gained this 'recognition' through our own efforts, I believe we deserve much more than a 'fly-by' visit. But this is where it gets tricky and sticky. Nobody is going to hand anything to us on a silver platter. We need to present our case strongly and pursue it aggressively. Why were we absent from the G20 Summit? What about the just-ended G8, when Libya was invited? A few years ago Libya was a pariah state and the West would have nothing to do with her. Libya has suddenly become the 'darling state' of the West, and it is all because Libya did what the West wanted. Yes, as I said earlier, it is always their interests first!! And now Gaddhafi would milk this new-found 'opportunity' for as long as it lasts. A mere presidential visit is not enough 'incentive' for an African despot somewhere to democratize. We (Ghana) should be invited to all the major international meetings, amongst other things. The West would have to do more to convince everybody that true democracy and stability pay; and that they are genuinely interested in our development.
Now that everybody is singing our praises, let's take advantage of the situation and push for Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs). Let's seek technical assistance to build up our Polytechnics and other vocational institutions. It is often said that 'investments' desire peace and stability; we do have a case good to present on this front. This is where we come in. We need to adequately prepare and provide the atmosphere for the FDIs. A few years ago, it was reported that Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital lost a big opportunity for major technical and financial assistance because the management was just not ready and couldn't draw up a simple proposal to show how the Hospital would utilize the funds. The government should have a clear-cut vision of what it wants to do. It should have plans and proposals at the ready. We should be able to guarantee year-round uninterrupted power and water supply. Safety and security of peoples and goods should be ensured. Only after these and more should we present our case and pursue it with all the 'clout' that we seem to have gained.
So I would join my brothers and sisters to wish President Obama and his family well. I pray that his would be 'change we can believe in' even in Ghana and the rest of Africa.
Written and submitted on July 11, 2009