Edited by Ben Derudder, Michael Hoyler, Peter J. Taylor and Frank Witlox
Chapter 42: Accra: A Globalizing City
Richard Grant Accra became the first African city to be visited by President Barack Obama. The president’s inaugural visit followed his two US presidential predecessors, who also selected Accra for official Africa stops. For Obama’s 2009 visit, West Africans were invited to welcome him by sending greetings as well as questions via short message service (SMS) so that the American president could respond via a 30-minute radio podcast. A Senegalese individual asked, ‘Why [did] Obama choose to visit Ghana?’ President Obama responded that he decided ‘to go to Ghana, in part, because of the tremendous work they’ve done in developing a functioning democracy . . . Where you’ve got governments that work that aren’t based on ethnicity and tribe, but rather based on rule of law, then they’re better at fighting corruption, people have a greater commitment to making things work, and everybody prospers’ (Americagov, 2009). There was a symbolic importance to the visit as a mark of respect. Of course, there was also a global teaching lesson in an African-American president visiting a globalizing city in Africa (Accra) and subsequently a remote former slave castle (Cape Coast) to peer through the prism of a gate ‘of no return’ where slaves had been carted off on ships to distant lands. This time around, though, the global power elite had returned to celebrate Ghana’s achievements in the political and economic arenas. Obama’s visit reflected the general phenomenon of states and companies now looking at Africa with a fresh eye: viewing it now for...
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