The leaders of four sub-Saharan African states are consolidating democratic gains, producing more stable government and generating economic growth, President Barack Obama said.
Presidents Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, Macky Sall of Senegal, Joyce Banda of Malawi, and Prime Minister José Maria Pereira Neves of Cape Verde Islands met with Obama to discuss how to strengthen democratic institutions in sub-Saharan Africa, and how to expand trade and investment.
“When you’ve got good governance, when you’ve got democracies that work,” Obama said, “that is not only good for the state and the functioning of government, it’s also good for economic development.”
“Strong institutions, rather than strongmen, democratic principles, really [are] the cornerstone of U.S. policy towards Africa. And these are countries that have done well or are struggling to do well,” said Jennifer Cooke at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“They are not the big powerhouses on the African continent. But they are examples that I think he [Obama] and the administration want to encourage support and see continued democratic consolidation,” she told VOA:
At the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, Mathurin Houngnikpo says the Obama administration wants other African leaders to draw a simple conclusion: “’If I want to meet President Barack Obama, I need to behave.’ It is a demonstration that, indeed, the U.S. means it when it says it is going to support democracy on the continent,” said Houngnikpo.
Such meetings “reward those countries that have made advances in the cause of democracy and human rights,” says Mwangi S. Kimenyi, a senior fellow and director of the Brookings Institution’s Africa Growth Initiative, including where they have made “progress in democratization or cessation of civil conflict.”
It was no accident that Obama met with the four leaders during the same week that China’s President Xi Jinping is touring Africa, say analysts.
“It is a much more competitive world out there, and so the U.S., rather than [just] lecturing on democracy and so forth, probably needs to do more in terms of supporting the domestic pressures for reform in these countries,” said Cooke. “Our best bet is to reinforce the internal pressures in these countries that are pushing for change: the younger generation, social media, and a middle class.”
The Obama administration seeks a multifaceted partnership with Africa that goes beyond U.S. aid, she said.
The administration is also aware that Sub-Saharan Africa is a volatile region where issues of security and good governance intersect.
“Many of the threats are transnational. You’ve seen terrorism infiltrate into the region. We’ve seen drug cartels that are using West Africa in particular as a transit point. All of this undermines some of the progress that’s been made,” Obama said. “And so the United States will continue to cooperate with each of these countries to try to find smart solutions so that they can build additional capacity and make sure that these cancers don’t grow in their region.”
The Obama administration’s efforts in the region, from pushing to expand trade to fighting terrorism, shouldn’t be understated, one analyst tells The Washington Post.
“What more is being looked for? Very often [people talk] of a kind of Marshall plan or something like that,” said John Campbell, senior fellow for Africa policy studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. “You have to wonder how much American political support there would be for something of that sort.”