Dean Najam on President Obama’s Africa Summit

August 4, 2014

As President Barack Obama readies to open the first US-Africa leaders summit in Washington, DC—what may be the largest gathering of heads of states in the US capital— Prof. Adil Najam, dean of the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, says, “Africa remains the land of great future opportunity, but it has never been a place for easy opportunity.”

Dean Adil Najam considers the summit to be a welcome but much-too-late step by President Obama:

“The field in Africa is already crowded. China has become a major economic power in Africa today, even though the FDI from the United States is higher. Others, including the European Union—but also rising economies such as Malaysia and India—have steadily grown their presence. The US has reacted slowly and its past steps have been focused mostly on security concerns.

It is good that President Obama has called the summit. It is good not only as a ‘legacy move’ by the president but good for Africa and good for the US. However, the timing is much less than good.

Right now, not only Washington but much of the world is focused on the immediate crises in Israel-Gaza, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and elsewhere. This is bound to distract attention. Also, the dominant recent news from Africa is not of growth and opportunity, but of Ebola. That is likely to be the center of conversation.”

Prof. Najam was the editor of a 2010 report titled “2060: Good News from Africa” from BU’s Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future, convener of a major conference on the same subject, and co-author of a companion piece in the academic journal Foresight“Africa 2060: What could be driving the good news from Africa?”

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