By Peter Clottey*
President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff says Africa’s challenge is leaders who can ensure the continent’s bright future prospects.
Bill Daley, who also served as commerce secretary under President Bill Clinton, predicted as well that Washington will continue to have strong relations with countries on the African continent.
His comments came at the recent official launch of Forbes Afrique magazine in Congo Republic’s capital, Brazzaville.
Dubbed the new voice for innovative and influential businessmen in Francophone Africa, officials of the magazine say the launch of Forbes Afrique is a major signal that the continent is firmly anchored in era of globalization and that Africa’s importance is growing on the international economic scene.
The new magazine, the officials added, is a testimony to the dynamic African economy, the attractiveness of the continent, and the emergence of a new generation of business leaders.
“The future of Africa is bright; the challenge for Africa is leadership. As much of the world longs for leadership, Africa longs for government and business leaders to step forward on a consistent basis, to provide the sort of governments that the African people deserve,” said Daley.
“Many people think that the 20th century was a lost century for Africa, we cannot allow that to happen again,” he said.
Daley is credited with encouraging strong relations between Washington and African countries, while he served in two U.S. administrations. Analysts say the growing trade relations between China and Africa pose a significant challenge to Western countries. But, Daley said private American companies continue to conduct businesses with African countries.
“Many U.S. companies have been in Africa for years and have done quite well and African companies that have grown and gone global now are doing more and more businesses in the U.S.,” said Daley.
“You will see him [President Obama] continue to improve the U.S. economy… if the U.S. economy is strong, it gives great opportunity for the rest of the world, including Africa, to get stronger.”
He said America faces a challenge from the growing trade and bilateral relations between China and Africa.
“The major challenge for the U.S. is most of the Chinese companies that come [to Africa] have a substantial government ownership and they are directed, if they are not controlled, they are directed by the government,” continued Daley.
“Obviously, U.S. companies and the U.S. government will not encourage companies to go in parts of the world that do not treat their people properly, to having the right governance, transparency for the sort of business that we think should be done,” he added.
Some African experts have been critical of the Obama administration, saying it has done very little for the continent, especially considering that Obama’s father was born in Kenya.
But Daley said Africa has a strong partner in Obama. He said the U.S. president has a close working relationship with African countries, in spite of the economic challenges faced by Washington.
“You cannot disregard the worst economic crisis to hit our country in over a hundred years that hit us over the last five [or] six years. So, his [the president’s] number one priority obviously has been trying to get the U.S. economy back in shape,” he said.
Daley called on African businesses and government to focus on long term investments, which he said will help Africans.
He expressed confidence that Obama will win his second term bid despite the slow U.S. economic recovery, adding that he expected a close election.
“He [Obama] has tried mightily and helped to keep our economy, albeit slower than we would like growing,” said Daley.