SA must be high on Obama’s second-term agenda

2012-11-10 15:46

Four more years! That was the battle cry of Barack Obama supporters during the presidential campaign of the newly re-elected US president.

One of the phrases I picked up from his speech was “the best is yet to come”. South Africa should be a part of that.

For the moment, we should let our anti-imperialist stance take a back seat and think of what Obama’s next four years will mean for South Africa.

In the first four years, we understood that he was establishing himself in the White House.

He inherited a difficult economic environment and he was America’s first black president. We knew the pressure on him was going to be much greater than on his predecessors.

While it should not matter that he is black, for the African continent it became an important feature.

Africa was not high on Obama’s agenda and he did not visit South Africa – although his wife, their children and his mother-in-law toured the country.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid an official visit instead. It must surely be time for that to change.
What do the next four years of Obama mean for South Africa?

I now believe Africa must be high on his agenda. He cannot afford to ignore South Africa, a democracy with strong institutions and the continent’s biggest economy.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act is very important for this country and it expires in 2015. It has to be renewed for South Africa to benefit as it does now as almost 98% of our products exported to the US are duty-free.

The United States President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief programme should also be exempt from downscaling as South Africa has benefited and we have managed to deal with the epidemic in a different way.
South Africa will continue to fight for multilateralism and use that to resolve issues.

As part of this approach, the relationship between the US and the African Union must be strengthened, and the president must listen to the voice of the African Union to resolve conflicts on the continent.

We must not let things get to the point they have in Libya.

I believe Obama is right – the best is yet to come. And South Africa needs to be part of it.

» Ambassador Zulu is the presidential adviser on international relations

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