Tomorrow, President Obama will leave for his first extended trip to the continent.
While he's been rather busy (multiple foreign wars, economy, domestic issues), it has been a little surprising that he hasn't made an extended trip to the continent most suited to change world dynamics in the next decades. Africa is full of emerging economies, healthy trade partners, and home to areas that are increasingly becoming microcosms of the global struggles between the US and Chinese interests, not to mention the effects of the Arab Spring.
According to this Reuters commentator, President Obama is also living in the shadows of both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, two presidents who made an enormous impact on the well-being of the continent. Bush's passion to combat HIV/AIDS made a world of difference in curtailing the spread of the disease and increasing life expectancies. Clinton, in addition to his support of Nelson Mandela, also signed the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act and changed the way the West traded with Africa.
Does having a US President visit Africa make a lot of difference? It really can. Organizations like Water is Basic are committed to using local people to accomplish local goals, but these dreams only happen with international support for a prosperous Africa. Leaders like President Obama make the most impact when they use their influence to put a spotlight on hard-working locals, and encourage the world to support them.
It's a tricky thing to balance local leadership and foreign support, but we can make it happen. We're excited to see the pictures, hear the speeches, and see what the next 10 days of foreign travel bring to Africa. We hope that President Obama becomes the third president in a row to lend US support to the growth of a powerful people