As Obama Heads to Africa, Experts See Opportunity

President Obama speaks in Accra, Ghana in July 2009, his last trip to the African continent.

The White House

President Obama and the first family will travel to Africa later this month, marking the President’s first substantial visit to the continent since the start of his second term. During his tour of sub-Saharan Africa, Obama will meet with political officials in Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania to discuss economic growth, democracy, and the importance of human rights.

Many believe President Obama will be remiss if he doesn’t take the opportunity to acknowledge the role of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in curbing the HIV/AIDS epidemic across the continent.  The trip comes on the heels of the State Department’s announcement that one million babies have been born HIV-free, thanks to PEPFAR’s support.  EGPAF is responsible for 20 percent of those averted infections.

In an opinion piece special for CNN, Janet Fleischman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies asserts that the upcoming trip is an opportunity for the administration to reiterate its commitment to improving the lives of girls and women throughout the world.

“In Tanzania, the President and Mrs. Obama can see innovative examples of U.S.-supported programs to address the dual epidemic of HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence, which exert a destructive and disproportionate impact on women and girls,” she writes.
Fleischman concluded her argument by quoting Zambian First Lady Christine Kaseba Sata’s message to President Obama:

“At the end of the day, mothers and women make the difference. Whatever you do should be woman centered…It’s the cornerstone for every country. The Obamas have an unparalleled opportunity to heed this advice – and to make this part of their legacy.” 

Chelsea Bailey is Communications Assistant for the Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.