Obama and the World

The morning of Nov. 5 was eventful in Cape Town, South Africa. Café Sofia, the local coffee shop in the university town of Rondebosch, was packed with exchange students and locals that patiently waited for the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. When Barack Obama was announced the victor the atmosphere immediately became jubilant and people celebrated. Tupac Shakur’s song ‘Changes,’ played and the verse: “And although it seems heaven sent / We ain’t ready to see a black president” seemed more poignant than ever.Since my arrival in South Africa in July, I’ve seen that positive sentiment towards Obama surpassed any ill feelings of President Bush. Pro-Obama graffiti can be seen in public places throughout the streets of Cape Town. One street has a spray painted silhouette of Barack Obama next to Abraham Lincoln.Like most African nations, South Africa’s view of Obama has been largely positive because of his race and Kenyan heritage. Tawanda Maramwidze, a University of Cape Town political science student from Zimbabwe, wore an Obama t-shirt on election-day. Maramwidze said he supported Obama as president because “[it] signified a change of the mindset of America and its stigma towards blacks.” Maramwidz also said that the Bush administration was more after “personal interests than the well beings of others.” Adding that, “with Obama African societies will be more accepting of what America is doing.” While the Bush administration can be scrutinized for many poor foreign policy decisions, arguably one of the few successes of his terms is his work with AIDS and poverty in parts of Africa.President Bush introduced a $18.8 billion President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR), which, according to the PEPFAR Web site, has provided more than 435,000 South Africans with anti-retro viral drugs and has provided aid to over 1.5 million other Africans in 14 other countries on the continent.PEPFAR, however, is controversial because it places emphasis on abstinence as the best form of contraception. This stance is mostly motivated by funding from faith-based organizations. Regardless of this, PEPFAR has had a positive affect more than one million lives on the continent of Africa. Its popularity, however, pales in comparison to Obama who, although he is an African American, has yet to have the opportunity to do anything for South Africa or the rest of the continent. David Kaplan, University of Cape Town economics professor and chief of the Department of Economic Development and Tourism in the Western Cape, was in favor of Obama’s victory, citing potential new solutions to global issues such as the environment, war in Iraq and the economy.However, Kaplan also noted that Democrats tend to be loyal to trade unions, which could be harmful for foreign trade. Obama did a wonderful job eliminating race as a focal point in his campaign and I hope the rest of the world follows in his footsteps. Blind allegiance is never an acceptable stance to take towards any leader.The world witnessed history and “change” on Election Day but I hope everyone continues to ask questions as we begin to deal with an immense financial debt, environmental crises, world poverty and two wars.