Since the U.S-Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington last year, the United States has taken a renewed interest in Africa, possibly as a competitive response to China’s dominance. This year alone, Africa has played host to top U.S cabinet members including Secretary of State John Kerry and his Commerce colleague Penny Pritzker, and plans are underway to receive President Obama in July.In the past five months, topmost U.S diplomat John Kerry has visited Kenya, Somalia and Nigeria, and reports from the White House suggest that he will be leading the U.S delegation to the inauguration of Nigerian President-elect Muhammadu Buhari next week.Kerry visited Africa’s largest economy in January ahead of the elections to emphasize that the strength of future US cooperation would be tied to the success of the polls. The milestone election was widely celebrated by Nigerians and foreign observers as many believed it crystallized the country’s democracy.“Today @POTUS announced that @JohnKerry will lead the U.S. Presidential Delegation to the inauguration of President-elect Buhari of #Nigeria,” the U.S. State Department tweeted earlier in the week. Buhari will be sworn in on May 29 after defeating outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan, the first time an incumbent president was defeated in Nigeria by a democratic process.
The White House said the other members of the US delegation would be announced in the coming days, but there are speculations that some senior members of the U.S. Congress, including Christopher Smith, Chairman of the US House of Representatives Sub Committee on Africa, may attend the event.
Having U.S delegations attend presidential inaugurations of friendly nations is not unusual, however, these are typically led by the U.S Ambassador in that country. It is only on rare occasions that senior diplomats and public officials are picked by the U.S president to attend such events, in order to send strong signals underscoring the importance placed on such countries at such times.
Apart from being Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria is also Africa’s biggest democracy and the world’s most populated black nation. This may explain the strong interest in its peaceful transition.
Beyond this, Africa’s economic renaissance continues to attract the developed world, mostly from Europe and China, but the U.S will be keen on taking a front-row seat in this renewed attraction.
By Emmanuel Iruobe