US President Barack Obama unveils US Africa strategy
The White House has announced a new US strategy for sub-Saharan Africa, which focuses on the continent’s economic potential.
It also explores issues related to democracy, security and development.
President Barack Obama said African democracy had improved but corruption was endemic in many countries and state institutions were weak.
The strategy comes as China’s presence on the continent continues to grow through investment and trade.
Mr Obama said he would work with Congress to develop preferential trade agreements with African countries, while fighting al-Qaeda and its affiliates on the continent.
“As we look toward the future, it is clear that Africa is more important than ever to the security and prosperity of the international community, and to the United States in particular,” said Mr Obama, the US-born son of a Kenyan man.
The US administration is reaching out to entrepreneurs through exchange programmes. It will try to match US and Africa companies for business opportunities.
The strategy is the result of four months of work, during which advisers looked at how to address the challenges the continent faces from famine to instability as well as the continent’s economic potential.
The BBC’s Kim Ghattas in Washington says the strategy is partly aimed at encouraging the US and Africans to do business together.
Our correspondent says this approach could also provide an opportunity to help revive the flagging economy in the US.
The announcement indicates a renewed focus on Africa, but as the plan is short on detail for now it is unclear how the strategy differs from what the administration has been doing so far, she says.
Some African countries already enjoy trade preferences with the US – through the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) – on the condition they uphold free elections and markets.
The US is planning to expand secret intelligence bases throughout Africa with a view to combating terrorism in the region, says a new report by the Washington Post. It is the latest in a US push to militarize its presence on the continent.
The plans include the deployment of spy planes equipped with high-tech surveillance technology.
The US is set to extend its influence, opening a number of intelligence air bases “from the fringes of the Sahara to jungle terrain along the equator,” said the Washington Post.
The initiative dates back to 2007 and is indicative of the rapid expansion of US Special Forces operations in the region as part of the decade-long war against Al-Qaeda.
The US will use the strategically-placed bases to launch spy planes disguised as private aircraft kitted-out with a range of sensors able to record video, track infrared heat trails and tap into radio and mobile phone signals.
The reasoning behind the ratcheting-up of surveillance on the African continent by the US is the increasing presence of terrorist cells that could potentially destabilize the region.
The Washington Post said that the US government currently has a number of intelligence facilities across Africa, including Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Seychelles, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.
The bases in Burkina Faso and Mauritania are used to spy on Al-Qaeda.
The US military has expressed concerns over the growing influence of the Nigerian terrorist sect Boko Haram, blamed for a wave of bombings in the country in December and Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabab in Somalia.
In addition, 100 special troops are currently in action in Uganda to hunt for Joseph Kony, the leader of a brutal guerrilla group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army.
Some state department officials have questioned the necessity to step-up a US presence in Africa given that many of the terrorist groups active on the continent represent no direct threat to the US.
In spite of doubts the US continues to rack up its presence in Africa. Last month the Army Times confirmed US military plans to deploy over 3,000 troops across the continent as part of a “regionally aligned force concept.”
the last bastion of cheap labour is coveted by the west and the east..and that is where the problem will emanate from..