Obama’s legacy projects in Africa may be targeted by Trump

Thursday November 17 2016

US President Barack Obama talks with June Muli,

US President Barack Obama talks with June Muli, head of customer care at M-Kopa, about solar power during the Power Africa Innovation Fair on the sidelines of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi on July 25, 2015. PHOTO | AFP 

By KEVIN J KELLEY

Some US analysts are suggesting that Donald Trump may take aim at two programmes that President Barack Obama intends as the centrepieces of his legacy in Africa.

Both these undertakings — Power Africa and the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) — are examples of American “soft power.” They stand in contrast to US military muscle, which has stirred fear and resentment in parts of the continent.

President Obama has put emphasis on this more benign US role in the international arena, and he will surely seek to preserve Power Africa and YALI, insofar as he is able, during the next four years.

The ambitious effort launched in 2013 to treble the sub-Saharan region’s electric-generating capacity is generally seen as President Obama’s bid to craft a project equivalent to the Bush and Clinton administrations’ signature programmes in Africa. But President-elect Trump might unplug Power Africa.

He warned via Twitter soon after the launch of the programme in 2013 that “every penny of the $7 billion going to Africa as per Obama will be stolen — corruption is rampant!”

President George W Bush initiated an emergency Aids-relief operation in 2003 that is credited with extending the lives of some two million HIV-positive Africans.

Three years earlier, President Bill Clinton had signed into law the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), which provides duty-free access to the US market for almost all exports from sub-Saharan countries.

Agoa has not fulfilled its architects’ central aim of spurring Africa’s industrialisation. But even its critics acknowledge that the preferential trade programme has been a boon to the textile industry in a few countries, such as Kenya, where it is credited with creating thousands of jobs.

Power Africa seeks to bring about long-term economic transformation.

The programme’s initially broad scope has been widened further in the past 18 months.

President Obama called three years ago for $7 billion in mainly private investment to add 10,000 megawatts of electricity to Africa’s grid by 2018.