Thursday, February 5, 2009

Interview with BBC Focus on Africa

BBC Focus on Africa published an interview with me as a two-page spread titled "Loaded Questions" in its January - March 2009 issue. The subheading of the article is: "What will the Obama presidency mean for Africa? Nick Ericsson finds out from an analyst and former US ambassador to the continent Professor David Shinn." BBC has not posted the article online, but there is an online forum here asking
Will Obama be a friend to Africa? Is Barack Obama likely to be a 'President for Africa'? Do you think his foreign policy will prioritise seeking the end to Africa's bloody and drawn-out conflicts? Or will the problems facing the United States prevent him from substantial commitments to his father's homeland? Could it be that President Bush and his generous aid packages have set the bar higher than Obama with his inherited tight purse strings can better?
Here's how I responded to the BBC's first question, "With strong Kenyan heritage will Barack Obama be a 'President for Africa'?"
I think initially he is going to be careful about the degree to which he engages in African issues -- because of the fact that he has this African heritage. Also there are so many other pressing issues in the United States. The economic crisis will overshadow almost everything in the initial months as well as problems aroudn the world -- Iraq and Afghanistan, North Korea, Russia, China and the Palestinian issue. It is not realistic to expect that he will focus on Africa immediately.

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