African leaders at White House
African leaders meeting with U.S president, Barack Obama at White House, March 28, 2013. White House

U.S. President Barack Obama met Thursday, March 28 with the leaders of Senegal, Malawi, Sierra Leone and Cape Verde.

It was no ordinary meeting. Perhaps as a clear sign of some sort of a ‘litmus test” the White House has set for African leaders, the guests were carefully selected for this meeting.

How do we know this?

In the president’s words, “the reason that I am meeting with these four is, they exemplify the progress that we are seeing in Africa,” Obama stated. So, what about the leaders who do not exemplify the kind of progress the White House would like to see in Africa?

Too bad, because they wont be coming to Washington D.C., or meeting with Obama any time soon.  They would have failed Obama’s Africa litmus test! They probably won’t get an invite from the White House either, or if they ask for a meeting, they probably would be turned down. That is, if this test holds.

Obama has had similar meetings with other African leaders at the White House.

So, hurry up, Robert Mugabe and company, if you like to be greeted with cheers and smiles when you come to America!

At the meeting, Obama enumerated the kind of progress that he was referring to, while calling each of the leaders by name.

In Sierra Leone:

The president talked of the brutal civil war that raged in the country just ten years ago. But now, thanks to the leadership of President Ernest Bai Koroma, Sierra Leone “has seen not only good governance but also significant economic growth”

In Malawi:

Obama referenced the 2012 constitutional crisis which emanated after the death of 78 year old president Bingu Wa Mutharika. He praised the way the crisis was resolved and said it demonstrated strong leadership. Plus, he said current president, Joyce Banda’s “personal story” of “overcoming a history of abuse and leading women throughout her country” indicated the kind of progress that can be made “when there is strong leadership,” Obama said.

In Senegal:

Obama recalled what he said were “bumps in the road” when Senegal faced a challenge during the transition of power from former president Abdoulaye Wade to the current president Macky Sall. When this happened, the Senegalese ‘rose up at the grass roots level and sustained their democracy,” Obama said.

In Cape Verde:

Often cited by world development organizations and best known as an African success story, Obama talked about Cape Verde’s per capita income which has expanded exponentially because of “good governance and management”, thanks to leadership from the country’s Prime Minister, José Maria Pereira Neves.

“The visit of these four leaders underscores the President’s commitment to substantive engagement and strengthened partnerships with African nations,” wrote Grant Harris on the White House blog


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