The director of Senegal’s tourism office in Atlanta, Aziz Gueye, says that his nation’s people are going to welcome President Obama “with open arms” when he arrives Wednesday.
Press reports from Senegal indicate that Mr. Gueye is mostly correct despite the inconvenience of so much security having to be put in place to accommodate the visit.
The Senegalese still recall the security crackdown when then-President George W. Bush visited such locations as Goree Island, the UNESCO World Heritage site, which Mr Obama is scheduled to visit as well.
Both former Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush have been praised for their support of health and trade initiatives in Africa, while Mr. Obama, who was expected to follow suit, has made only a brief trip to Ghana as president and has not pushed forward a strong commercial policy for the continent.
Meanwhile, he also has been criticized by political opponents at home about the expense of the trip that is to include visits to South Africa and Tanzania at a time when government budgets are tight.
But U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Republican from Georgia, is enthusiastic about the president’s visit that will include meetings with Senegal’s president, Macky Sall, and other officials.
“I believe it’s very appropriate for the president to travel to Africa this month because of the United States’ opportunities for trade and commerce on the continent and because it’s the 10th anniversary of PEPFAR (the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief),” he wrote in an email to Global Atlanta.
“I’m glad to see President Obama engaging that area of the world, and I wish him a safe and productive trip.”
Mr. Isakson is a former ranking member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee‘s subcommittee on sub-Saharan Africa, and has made several official visits to the continent. He left the foreign affairs committee earlier this year to join the Senate Finance Committee, but remains engaged in Africa as the top Republican on the finance committee’s subcommittee on trade.
Stephen Hayes, the president and CEO of the Washington-based Corporate Council on Africa, told Global Atlanta that he hopes the trip will encourage the president to push for a more active U.S. role in Africa.
While an official aim of the visit is to underscore U.S. support for countries that have encouraged the development of democracy, there are underlying business imperatives including counterbalancing aggressive Chinese investment.
Mr. Hayes said that Mr. Obama is to focus primarily on finance issues in South Africa to which the president will travel on Friday. Currently, U.S. companies that wish to conduct business in Africa are forced to seek financing primarily from European or even Chinese banks, he added.
Mr. Hayes is leaving for Tanzania Wednesday where he will help prepare U.S. and African businesses for meetings with Mr. Obama who is scheduled to visit with a small group of companies first and then follow-up with a meeting of a much larger group including small-to medium-sized companies.
The only Atlanta-based company as of Wednesday that is scheduled to meet in the smaller group is the Coca-Cola Co., although the global agriculture equipment firm AGCO Corp. has been invited and may attend, Mr. Hayes said.
Mr. Hayes said that it is important for U.S. power companies, which are globally competitive, to become involved on the continent and provide the foundation from which important strides in economic development can be made.
The Corporate Council has a 64-page document of recommendations for U.S. policy in Africa during the second Obama administration that may be found by clicking here.