TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

East Africa: Obama win great for region

Monday, 10 November 2008

Source: East African Business Week

It has been all over the media. History was rewritten last week by a son of the soil, as they say in Afro-speak. Barack Obama born in Hawaii to a white mother from Kansas and a Kenyan father from Kogelo village, in the Siaya district of western Kenya, is the US's 44 president-elect.

Kenya declared November 5th, a national public holiday in Kenya soon after Republican Party presidential contender John McCain conceded defeat.

All the East African leaders have congratulated Mr. Obama. Celebrations across the continent abounded through out the week.

Governments and the business community believe that Obama's ascension will open doors and opportunities for Africa.

Business, according to analysts, is where the action will be after Obama settles into office come January.

The US has been slowly but surely opening its doors for Africa in the last 15 years. Previous governments had given Africa lukewarm treatment to the continent. Let's take a snapshot.

It was Bill Clinton who started a bigger rapprochement between the US and Africa.

In May 2000, Clinton signed into law the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA).

AGOA provides for trade preferences for quota and duty-free entry into the United States for certain goods, expanding the benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program.

Then came President Bush's HIV plan for Africa.

The $15billion Bush AIDS Fund, created in 2003, is credited with saving lives on the continent. In February this year, Bush pledged $1.2billion for 5.2 million mosquito nets and drugs to combat malaria in sub-Saharan Africa in the next five years.

Obama's ascendancy to power will certainly push up Kenya and East Africa's tourism numbers. Already information coming in about inquiries about Obama's birthplace abound.

Obama has himself pledged more support to the continent.

The US is interested in following the cue made recently by China, India and Japan. There will be more inquiries on health education, governance and environment. This is Africa's time and its time for change.

Even in the current financial crisis, there is change one can believe in. Karibu Obama!