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President Obama To Visit Ghana Friday

IRIN reports that Ghanaians “are mixing high hopes with caution” in anticipation of President Obama’s arrival in the country Friday – “his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa.” Obama is expected to “make a major policy statement,” according to IRIN. The article looks back at some of the commitments that former Presidents Bush and Clinton previously made to Africa (7/8).

The Hill writes: “In his agenda for Africa, Obama wants to build on the legacy of President Bush, who was praised for ‘changing the conversation’ on aid to Africa. Bush helped increase the number of people who receive HIV/AIDS assistance from the U.S. from 50,000 when he took office to 2 million when he left” (Youngman, 7/8).

It was “Bush’s pledge to allocate $17 million to assist Ghana in fighting malaria” – the leading cause of death in the country – “which brought him most popularity,” according to IRIN. “The money has been spent on building up capacity to fight malaria, distributing 350,000 insecticide-treated mosquito nets, targeting up to 600,000 people across five districts with indoor residual spraying, fighting malaria in pregnancy, and on diagnosis and treatment, according to CDC adviser on the project Paul Psychas,” writes IRIN.

Ghana’s Deputy Minister Ablakwa said, “Bush made a direct promise and largely he has delivered on that promise.” Now all eyes are on Obama, who in “early May committed $51 billion towards PEPFAR over six years” and is reported to support the malaria initiative. IRIN reports that despite excitement growing in the streets of Ghana as Obama’s visit nears, “Some are sobering their expectations in line with the current economic outlook. ‘What we forget is that Mr. Bush made those pledges when the U.S. economy was sound and healthy but I don’t think anybody can say the same now for Mr. Obama,’ [said] Kwesi Amakye, a political science lecturer at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. ‘I am convinced that many will be disappointed. We are simply expecting too much’” (7/8).

“It’s important that Africans see that America’s commitment to Africa will continue,” said Tony Fratto, a former spokesman to Bush. The Hill article includes comments by Tom Hart, director of government relations for the ONE campaign. Hart said, “President Obama himself has a unique ability to speak to the continent in direct and comfortable terms that those other presidents sometimes could not.” As a result, Obama “‘can be very critical of poor governance’ and expect more from African leaders, Hart said’” (7/8).

allAfrica.com features an interview with Obama on his upcoming visit and U.S. Africa policy.