In the Somali Mall not far from my house, there are signs for Obama all over the place. The other day, I was there talking to a guy from Ethiopia, who’d just come back from a visit. He said everyone at home, or 99% of them, want Obama to win. What this means is a matter of debate, but a friend of mine, Mukoma wa Ngugi, just had a great piece on the BBC about what Obama means (and doesn’t mean) for Africa. In his eyes, it speaks as much to the failures of African countries as to the success of a half-member of its diaspora. The implications for the continent are mixed at best.
But one way an Obama presidency might be a bright spot for Africa is the simple fact that Obama knows (or did know) what things look like from the ground up. Back in April, he commented that, “When Senator Clinton brags ‘I’ve met leaders from eighty countries’–I know what those trips are like! I’ve been on them. You go from the airport to the embassy. There’s a group of children who do native dance. You meet with the CIA station chief and the embassy and they give you a briefing. You go take a tour of a plant that [with] the assistance of USAID has started something. And then, you go. You do that in eighty countries, you don’t know those eighty countries. [W]hen I speak about having lived in Indonesia for four years, having family that is impoverished in small villages in Africa–knowing the leaders is not important. What I know is the people.”
Which means that for once, we may have a president who actually knows the world not because he was on a committee, or lived in some walled-off compound, but because he has been part of that world, and it made him who he is, and he knows what it’s like to live out in it. And as we all know, Obama is Beautiful World: