Africare News Release
Julius Coles Invited to Discuss the New Terms of Engagement with Africa for the Obama Administration
Washington, DC, January 19, 2009 A panel of experts including African leaders, American experts familiar with the Obama Administration’s likely expectations of Africa, and leaders from the African Diaspora met before an audience of over 200 African diplomats and African specialists at the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to explore a mutually beneficial relationship between Africa and the U.S. in the years ahead.
Co-sponsored by Africa Aspire and the African Diaspora for Change, the program was opened by keynote speaker the Honorable Ojo Maduekwe, Foreign Minister of Nigeria. The panel was then charged with seeking to identify commonalities and differences in the perspectives, priorities, and imperatives as seen by Africa and the Obama Administration on issues across a wide range of topics including national security and conflict resolution; economic growth and development; health; education; energy; and the environment.
Panel moderator Howard Jeter, former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, led the panel through discussions addressing a number of key questions ranging from what will/should be the priorities of the Obama Administration to the role of AFRICOM to means to enhance and accelerate African economic development. Panel experts included: Hon. Ojo Maduekwe, Foreign Minister of Nigeria; Mr. Whitney Schneidman, Spokesperson on Africa for the Obama Presidential Campaign; Ambassador (ret.) Princeton Lyman, Senior Fellow and Director for Africa, Council on Foreign Relations; Pearl-Alice Marsh, who handles African issues for the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Prof. Suleiman Nyang, Chair of African Studies, Howard University; Prof. Gwendolyn Mikell, Former Director of African Studies, Georgetown; and Mr. Julius Coles, President, Africare.
The discussion focused mainly on what Africa expects of the Obama Administration. The discussants felt in general that the Administration was positively disposed towards Africa and that President Obama had taken many favorable positions during the post-election period on such issues as the Congo and Darfur. They also believe that this administration would approach Africa with new respect for its peoples and cultures and that there would be new partnerships formed between the African nations and the United States. The discussants found further consensus around the need for a renewed emphasis on increasing trade and aid for the African continent and in strengthening peace-keeping operations where necessary.
There were differing views on whether AFRICOM should be supported or not. Many of the Americans attending the conference were in favor of AFRICOM if its role were restricted to that of training and providing logistical support for the African forces. Many of the Africans, however, indicated that the role of AFRICOM had not been well defined and that there is not a clear understanding of what the role should be.
Coles summed up the discussion by saying, “I believe that the expectations for the Obama Administration on the part of the African continent are somewhat unrealistic, given all of the problems that this administration will face in its first two years, including a world financial crisis, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and many domestic issues in the U.S. Africa needs to be patient and supportive of the Obama Administration and should not expect major results early on. “ He went on to emphasize the need to continue to provide substantial aid and trading opportunities, two essential tools that go hand in hand. Furthermore, he stressed the need to maintain the high level of aid provided under the Bush Administration to combat HIV/AIDS, as well as to increase efforts to make resources available to boost food production in the African nations.
Africare is a leading non-profit organization specializing in African development aid. It is the oldest and largest African-American led organization in that field. Since its founding in 1970, Africare has delivered more than $710 million in assistance and support — over 2,500 projects and millions of beneficiaries —to 36 countries Africa-wide. Africare has its international headquarters in Washington, DC, with field offices currently in some 25 African countries.