Africa and Obama ‘On the Move’
Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. NNPA Columnist | 8/4/2015, 1:24 p.m.
Some people are now saying what was really obvious to me before President Barack H. Obama was re-elected to continue leading the United States of America. He is a Black man. He is an African man. As the first African American to be the president, the unprecedented hostility and threats against the president have been in too many instances racially motivated as well as based on partisan politics.
Yet, President Obama continues to be strategic about how he represents his race, genealogy and his commitment to promote and sustain African freedom and empowerment. Yes, he is the president of all the people in the U.S. That is not the issue. We are not debating or taking exception to the fact that President Obama represents all the people of the U.S.
I believe that his historic trip to Kenya and to Ethiopia is indicative of Obama’s distinctive characteristic of taking strategic moves that go far beyond the traditional limitations of American politics and global outreach. This was the fourth trip of the president to Africa. As the first sitting American president to visit Kenya and Ethiopia, his timing could not have come at a better time.
I guess Donald Trump and other so-called Birthers will once again raise politically-divisive questions about whether President Obama is a real citizen of the United States. But like the other divisive issues that Trump and others are now raising about the “browning of America,” those stiff-neck far right leaders really miss the point.
Like China, the United States should see that its place in the global market place will be increasingly and inextricably linked to having a productive relationship with Africa. Yes, it was good for President Obama to first reunite with his close relatives in Kenya. The pictures of President Obama hugging his Kenyan sister, Auma Obama, and other relatives in the capital city of Nairobi were very inspiring and affirming of strong family values in Africa and in America.
In truth, however, President Obama’s major objective to achieve in Africa was about trade, economic development, investments, innovation, geopolitical politics, security and the fundamental promotion of African unity and socioeconomic progress. He rendered a keynote speech to the Global Entrepreneur Summit in Nairobi. In fact, going forward there are economic development opportunities for African American-owned businesses in the U.S. to develop joint ventures with African entrepreneurs.
President Obama strongly affirmed at the summit that, “Africa is on the move.” Referring to entrepreneurial projects that were now being owned and led by women in Kenya and in other nations in Africa, Obama took note and was supportive. He said, “It’s the spark of prosperity. It helps people stand up for their rights and push back against corruption….. means ownership and self-determination, an opportunity to not simply be dependent on somebody else for your livelihood.”
No sitting American president has ever attended or addressed the African Union (AU) while it was in official session in the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. Ethiopia has the second-largest population in Africa, behind only Nigeria. The economy in Ethiopia is growing and the African nation owns and operates one of the largest airline services on the continent. President Obama’s speech to the AU was well received by the African heads of state who attended the meeting. The theme of African unity and mutual economic cooperation was a priority issue at the AU.
Lastly, I detected a renewed sense of African pride that was exemplified by the statements and actions of President Obama’s latest trip to Africa. I think that African Americans, in particular, should also strive to establish more effective unity and cooperative business development in our communities throughout the U.S. Owning our own businesses in America in the past was a source of pride and self-empowerment.
When Obama was introduced at the summit in Kenya, he stated, “Obviously, this is very personal for me. There’s a reason why my name’s Barack Hussein Obama.” He is proud of his name and his Kenyan ancestry. Auma Obama also said that her father, Barack Hussein Obama Sr., would be very moved to witness his son return to Kenya as the president of the United States. She stated, “He’d be extremely proud and say, ‘Well done.”
Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA).