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Obama Son of the Soil v. Mitt Owner of the Soil: Africa 2012

A look at the US Presidential candidates and their policy toward Africa 2012

As Mitt Romney vies for the position of leader of the free world we are all wondering what his policy on Africa will look like. Bill Clinton was a rock star embarking on the longest foreign trip of any US President while in office to Africa at a time when people questioned why. His introduction of African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) however you may feel about the policy was, meant to give African goods a hand up in the right direction. George W. Bush was a celebrity in Africa and gave a lot of money to combat AIDS. Barack Obama whom Africa has embraced as a son of the soil given that his father was a true son of Africa repackaged the Bush package to his own liking and Africa was still pleased. Perhaps it was the fact that Africa could take the message better because let’s face he was the first leader of the free world who had ridden in a “matatu”.

Romney’s website states

“Recognizing that Africa’s road to stability and prosperity lies through a robust private sector economy, increased trade, and good governance, a Romney administration will encourage and assist African nations to adopt policies that create business-friendly environments and combat governmental corruption. Such policies will lift those nations and their people, boost economic ties to the United States, and provide greater certainty to U.S. and international investors. Greater market access across the continent for U.S. businesses will bolster job creation in Africa as well as in the United States.”

Mitt Romney through his private equity firm Bain Capital purchased Edcon the largest retailer in Africa.

On the Edcon website it states

“In 2007, Edcon was acquired by Bain Capital, one of the world’s leading private investment firms, in the largest Private Equity acquisition in South African History. Whilst this changes our funding model, it does not affect our core business, customer base or growth opportunities. Edcon’s people remain integral participants in future value creation and will continue to share in the wealth created while Bain Capital has ownership.”

Romney’s economic policy will probably look more like 19th century British economic plan for Africa. Romney has more in common with Cecil John Rhodes the British imperialist who wanted to establish companies in Africa and take the profits home as Bain capital does.

On the other hand it is China that built the highway from Cape to Cairo that Rhodes only dreamed of. The United States will continue to clash with China. Just as the Cold War in the 1950s and 1960s was fought on the grounds of political ideology the war with China will be on economic ideology. What China will have going for it over the United States is that when the United States under Reagan supported colonialism and apartheid China armed Africans to obtain freedom from their colonial masters and are in a way indebted to China for their independence for their help.

The glamour of the American lifestyle vs Chinese lifestyle may lure African who believes that all that is American is golden. Romney’s plans of cutting aid will not have much to use to obtain loyalty as America has done in the past. In contrast China has large sums of cash to throw around in Africa and spend on politician’s pet project which will likely be rewarded through contracts. Perhaps the biggest advantage that China has in its favor is the law of demographics. African countries want an opportunity to also compete in the Chinese market at some point with access to potentially 1 billion clients compared to the United States with only 300 million people. If Mitt Romney becomes President we wonder how that philosophy of “free enterprise” will be interpreted in Africa.

Article by Anna Mosi-Oa-Tunya 2012

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