BARACK Obama will visit Africa for the first time since being sworn-in as the first black U.S. president when he travels to Ghana in July, a trip many Africans hope will herald powerful help for their poor continent.
Ghanaians celebrated Washington’s decision to choose their country for Obama’s presidential debut in Africa, where he is a hugely popular figure. They said the visit represents a chance for Ghana, which expects to start producing oil in 2011, to press its claims for greater engagement with the West. Obama will visit the former British colony on July 10 and 11, Ghana’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
“It is my hope that Ghana will take advantage of this visit … we need help to boost trade for growth,” said former diplomat Kwaku Bapru Asante. “We should try to push ideas to get the international institutions to modify their conditions and processes in our favor so that we can trade, rather than always asking for aid.”
Ghana, a gold and cocoa exporting country whose economy is struggling with inflation of more than 20 percent and a high budget deficit, is in talks with the International Monetary Fund to secure $1 billion to boost its foreign exchange reserves. “During his visit, President Obama will hold bilateral talks with his Ghanaian counterpart, President John Evans Atta Mills, aimed at strengthening the fraternal relations existing between the two countries,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
The Obamas and Africa
Accra residents were thrilled at the prospect of hosting Obama and his wife Michelle. “I will not work that weekend and I’ll do all that it takes to be among the crowd to wave at his motorcade – for me, that alone is fulfilling,” said car mechanic Henry Boahene, shouting the president’s name. Obama, whose late father was Kenyan, sparked a wave of high expectation throughout Africa when he resoundingly won elections in November, though the world’s poorest continent has barely featured on his agenda since taking power in January.
Many Africans had hoped Obama’s inauguration would mark the start of a new U.S. push to alleviate the poverty, hunger, conflict and corruption that blight much of the continent, but the president’s first four months in power have been dominated by the financial crisis at home. Obama will also visit Cape Coast, a former slave trading hub in Ghana.