WASHINGTON, D.C.: President Barack Obama, whose election in 2008 as the first black American president sparked huge expectations in Africa, will at last hold a summit next week for the continent’s leaders.
Invitations were sent to 50 heads of state and government for talks that seem designed as a counterweight to China’s decade-long surge in investment and trade with Africa.
American officials said all the countries invited to send delegations will do so, most of them headed by presidents but some by vice presidents, prime ministers or foreign ministers.
Notable absentees will include Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI—who will send envoys—but sub-Saharan Africa will be well represented.
Only four presidents were excluded: Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe; Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir; Eritrea’s Issaias Afeworki; and the Central African Republic’s transitional leader Catherine Samba Panza.
But, even if Obama’s gathering marks the greatest ever concentration of African leadership in Washington, it is not clear what kinds of results can be expected from the three-day summit.
Obama’s foreign policy was first marked by a pivot to Asia and a failed attempt to “reset” relations with Russia, and he did not make Africa a priority in his first term.