Sunday, June 30, 2013

Obama fever hits Tanzania ahead of visit

PHOTO | SAUL LOEB US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama disembark from Air Force One upon arrival at Cape Town International Airport in Cape Town, South Africa, on June 30, 2013.

PHOTO | SAUL LOEB US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama disembark from Air Force One upon arrival at Cape Town International Airport in Cape Town, South Africa, on June 30, 2013.  AFP

By TOM MOSOBA, NATION CORRESPONDENT in Dar es Salaam

Tanzanian leader Jakaya Kikwete on Monday leads his country in welcoming US leader Barack Obama, who is on the last leg of his Africa tour.

Mr Kikwete and First Lady Salma will host the US President and First Lady Michelle Obama at State House, Dar-es-Salaam.

Air Force One, the plane in which Mr Obama will be travelling from South Africa, is scheduled to land at the Julius Nyerere International Airport shortly before 3pm.

There has been palpable excitement in the country since Tanzania was picked alongside South Africa and Senegal for the US leader’s eight-day tour of Africa.

Kenya will miss out on the visit but President Obama at the weekend pledged to visit the land of his father before the end of his second term in the next three-and-a-half years.

However, the visit will not be without upsets as the life for the nearly five million residents of Dar es Salaam is expected to grind to a near halt for two days following high security arrangements in and around the city.

The visit is Mr Obama’s first to Africa since he was re-elected for a second and final term in office in 2012. He made a short visit to Ghana and Egypt in 2008 soon after his historic election as the first African-American to occupy the White House.

Washington has described the current trip as motivated by America’s desire and commitment to deepen trade and diplomatic ties with African countries.

“Frankly, we see Africa as one of the most important emerging regions in the world and a place for the US to significantly increase our engagement for trade and investment by US businesses,” said Mr Ben Rhodes, Mr Obama’s deputy national security adviser.

“We can send a signal through this trip that this isn’t a one-off,” Mr Rhodes said in a conference call with the media ahead of the trip that started in Senegal on Wednesday.

He said Mr Obama would seek to demonstrate that the US offered a better development model for Africa focusing on democracy, peace and security, youth and food security.

“When you look at what the United States is focused on, it’s support for African democratic institutions, for models of economic growth that will be broad-based and will bring opportunities to more people,” said Rhodes.

During his Dar-es-Salaam visit, Mr Obama will be accompanied by more than 500 company executives scouting for investment opportunities. They will hold talks with local company executives as well as invited guests from other East African Community member states.

Mr Obama’s visit comes barely four months following that of the new Chinese President Xi Jinping, who made Tanzania his first stop to address the government’s development strategy for Africa.

Domestic pressure has been mounting on the Obama administration to act bullishly in Africa to check China’s growing influence.

China has recently overtaken Kenya to become Dar’s second largest source of investment with bilateral trade reaching $2.47 billion in 2012, a 15.2 per cent growth.

“The back to back visit by Mr Xi and now Mr Obama is testimony to our good standing in the region, Africa and the world,” said Foreign Affairs minister Bernard Membe.

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