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African Social Science Review

Abstract

President Obama’s first trip to Africa as US President in July 2009 took him to Ghana. The president used his 2009 trip to articulate his broad and ambitious policy of engagement towards sub-Saharan Africa. His pronouncements during the trip to Ghana generated high expectations for a new dawn in the relationship between the United States and Africa.The U.S. President made Ghana his first stop on the continent because he was probably highly impressed by the institutionalization of democratic processes in the country. While in Ghana, the president highlighted that country's commitment to peaceful democratic transition and establishment of effective governance practices. Obama also called on other African leaders to follow the example of Ghana by creating democratic institutions, embracing good governance practices, and showing respect for the human rights of their citizens. During his second trip to Africa from June 27-July 2, 2013, President Obama and the First Lady traveled to Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania to meet with leaders from government, business, and civil society, and to reinforce U.S. commitment to expanding economic growth, investment, and trade; strengthening democratic institutions; and investing in the next generation of African leaders. The U.S.-Africa Summit of August 6-7, 2014, convened by President Obama in Washington, D.C. was no doubt initiated to advance the political agenda of his previous two trips to Africa, and also to establish stronger economic and cultural ties with Africa. The 2014 summit brought together an unprecedented number of African leaders to Washington, D.C. for a two day conference that covered a broad array of topics ranging from health Care, trade and investments, security and terrorism, to good governance, democratic institutions and human rights. His third trip to Africa as President, took Obama to Kenya and Ethiopia from July 24-July 28, 2015.This visit was historic on two levels: it was the first time that a sitting American President had visited each of these countries as well address the African Union. In Kenya, Obama held bilateral meetings with Kenyan officials and attended the 2015 Global Economic/Entrepreneurship summit, an annual conference that brings together entrepreneurs, business leaders, and international organizations to discuss global economic and business issues. This trip built on the success of the August 2014 U.S.-Africa Leader’s Summit and continued America’s efforts to work with countries in sub-African, including Kenya, to accelerate economic growth, strengthen democratic institutions and improve health and security. A partnership between the United States and Africa is as important as it is strategic because both partners must work together in order to function effectively in a complex global environment that is increasingly plagued by terrorism, political instability, devastating public health epidemics, economic inequalities, poor governance and the failure to effect credible administrative reforms in a number of African nations. This paper proposes to examine the content of U.S. support for the establishment of democratic institutions and good governance practices in Africa since the onset of democratic transitions in Africa in the early 1990s. A review of American support for Africa’s democratic transitional process is important because the United States was instrumental in supporting and facilitating the political discourse and initial processes that constituted the foundations of many transitional efforts in Africa. This task will be accomplished against the backdrop of the inability, unwillingness, or failure of some African nations to fully embrace the democratic processes and institutions upon which such US support is supposed to be predicated. It is apparent that the Anglophone nations in West, East and South Africa have been more responsive to the political practices advocated by the United States and its western allies and are in fact reforming their political institutions and administrative processes and procedures. By contrast, most Francophone nations in West and Central Africa are content with the status quo. Why is there a discrepancy between the English-speaking and French-speaking African nations toward embracing democratic and good governance practices? It is to answering this question that this paper aspires to accomplish through a comparative analysis of the performance records of a select number of Anglophone and Francophone states in West and Central Africa. How have these English (Ghana, Botswana, and South Africa) and French-speaking (Cameroon, Ivory Coast, and the Democratic Republic of Congo) countries fared since President Obama first acknowledged the great strides made by Ghana during his 2009 visit?

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