I was in Ethiopia just a few weeks after the 2008 US elections. Obama-love was everywhere. Taxi drivers wore Obama hats; hawkers sold bootleg DVDs of his Democratic National Convention acceptance speech; I even purchased an Amharic language translation of his autobiography “Dreams of My Father,” (which used the title: “The Secrets of Greatness and Change.”) The head of the African Union told me that he considered Obama to be “president of the African diaspora.”
Five years later, it is clear that Obama is still absolutely loved in parts of Africa. His speech today marked his third trip to the continent since becoming president, and his second to South Africa this year.
It’s a stirring speech, with some classic Obama oratorical flourishes. But watch the speech for the crowd’s reaction. He’s still got the juice.
The key question from a policy perspective is how can Obama leverage his personal popularity in his remaining time in office to advance the cause of freedom and dignity in the parts of Africa that love him so.