Despite the joy and high expectations inspired across Africa by Barack Obama’s election, issues on the world’s poorest continent have hardly featured at all on the new U.S. president’s agenda in his first 100 days. Many Africans hoped Obama’s inauguration in January as Washington’s first African-American leader would mark the start of a new U.S. drive to end the poverty, disease, corruption and conflicts that plague many of their countries.

obamaBut a tidal wave of domestic priorities ranging from the worst financial crisis for decades to floods and now a public health emergency triggered by swine flu, plus a series of foreign policy challenges, have left little time for Africa. The commander-in-chief’s father may have hailed from Kenya, but most on the continent are realistic about where they rank.

“We in Senegal do not expect much from Obama because America has a lot of problems that he has to take care of,” said Hadi Diouf N’diaye, the 32-year-old manager of a Dakar internet cafe. Top of the list for the new president has been the global economic slowdown. It has dominated major summits overseas and driven him to push Congress for a budget at home that would see him spend and borrow more than any U.S. leader in history.

With early forecasts that Africa would escape the worst of the financial meltdown now looking hopeful at best, many on the continent have been watching the response in Washington keenly. Akwasi Osei-Adjei, Ghana’s former foreign minister, said the first 100 days suggested Obama could do a lot to help the world.



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