In light of President Obama’s trip to Ghana on Friday, organizations with vested interest in Africa gathered yesterday at the Institute for Policy Studies to hold a public briefing and press conference to discuss U.S. policy issues in Africa including global health, peace and security and agriculture. The event was moderated by Emira Woods of Foreign Policy in Focus. A letter to the president, as well as a media briefing booklet created specifically for the president’s trip to Ghana, were distributed.
First to speak about the upcoming trip was Nii Akeutteh, a native Ghanaian, and former executive director of Africa Action. Akeutteh explained why the president chose Ghana of all the African nations to visit. “Ghana’s recent elections show a very positive message for other African nations,” he said describing Ghana’s recent peaceful transition of power. “Democracy is an instrument to achieving other things.”
One of the goals of the president is improving the health of Africans. There’s speculation that he will visit a health facility in Ghana, which is not out of character for him. Don’t forget that he and Michelle were publicly tested for HIV in Kenya in 2006 to dispel the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS testing.
Matthew Kavanagh of Health Global Access Project (GAP) highlighted the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria who French President Sarkozy’s wife, Carla Bruni, is ambassador for prevention of HIV in women and children. Kavanagh reiterated the successes and current funding shortfall of the Global Fund. Although $3 billion worth of projects are waiting to be funded, the bank currently has only $900,000.
Speaking on the issue of peace and security in Africa was Dan Volman of the Association of Concerned African Scholars. Volman feared AFRICOM – an independent military command for Africa that was created by the U.S. — will receive further increases in funding and be a topic of discussion during the president’s stay in Ghana. “It is quite clear, what little evidence we have, is that Obama is continuing, expanding and intensifying U.S. military involvement in Africa,” Volman said.
Bill Freese of the Center for Food Safety spoke briefly about the food crisis last spring. “One main reason for it is the increasing use of food crops to feed the biofuel use of developed nations,” Freese said, referring to the U.N. and World Bank sponsored International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology (IAASTD).
No matter what the president visits during his time in Ghana, a plethora of issues currently face the continent. Choosing Ghana because of its democratic election process is a step in the right direction in looking towards the future of Africa — emphasizing one of the many positive stories on the continent. Each of the issues discussed in the briefing all point back to the health of individuals and overall populations – whether it’s a discussion specifically about the HIV/AIDS, malaria, child and maternal health, agriculture (which translates into concerns about nutrition) or peace and security (which deal with individual and population safety). Improving the health of the people improves the health of the country, continent and society as a whole. We are a global world, and it’s time to take a global stand together.