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July 01, 2013

Obama Arrives in Tanzania with Trade in Mind

by Gabe Joselow

U.S. President Barack Obama has arrived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the last stop on his three-nation tour of Africa.  Mr. Obama will hold talks with his Tanzanian counterpart Jakaya Kikwete, and will continue his push to improve business ties with Africa’s booming economies.  
 
 “Obamamania” - that’s the headline of Tanzania’s Citizen newspaper Monday as the country welcomes the arrival of the U.S. president.
 
Obama’s portrait decorates the lampposts throughout the city, along with the Swahili greeting "Karibu Tanzania."
 
Residents of the city lined the streets coming from the airport to catch a glimpse of the presidential motorcade.
 
Boniface Deogratius, a student at Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology, has high hopes for Obama’s visit.
 
“We are just preparing ourselves to welcome him and even to share things together with the people from the United States, economically, socially, so we can move forward for the country,” he said.
 
Tanzania is among the biggest recipients of U.S. foreign assistance, much of it from a $700 million compact for infrastructure development from the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

But the U.S. president is hoping to increase private investment in the country.  Tanzania's economy is growing at a 7 percent annual rate, and hopes to benefit from recent natural gas discoveries off the coast.

Obama is holding a roundtable discussion with African and American business leaders, as he continues to lobby for increased trade with African countries.
 
U.S. investment in Africa is falling behind China, which says trade with the continent reached nearly $200 billion last year.
 
Chinese companies have a substantial presence in Tanzania, holding contracts for road construction and projects to improve the port of Dar es Salaam.

Obama’s trip to Tanzania comes four months after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the country, soon after being elected.
 
Amedeus Shayo, who is among those waiting to see the presidential motorcade, says he thinks competition with China was a major factor in Obama’s decision to visit.
 
“China has overtaken the United States in Africa.  Honestly saying, I’ve been reading all the news, I’ve seen all the investments that are happening here, it’s just because China has taken this country,” says Shayo.
 
Obama traveled to Tanzania from South Africa, where, in a major speech in Cape Town, he announced the United States will contribute $7 billion to a new initiative called Power Africa, which the president said seeks to double access to power in sub-Saharan Africa.
 
Tanzania is one of the countries targeted by the program. Obama is expected to speak more about the initiative on Tuesday, during a scheduled visit to Tanzania’s Ubungo power plant on the last day of his Africa tour.


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