Why Many Africans Cared About Obama's Re-election

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Despite their own pressing problems, locals on the continent still take an interest in U.S. politics.

In the last few weeks before the U.S. presidential election, it seemed as if every time I opened my mouth, a South African stranger initiated a version of the same conversation: "Do you really think," a woman said to me as I browsed through vintage couture at her Johannesburg shop, "that that idiot is going to win?"
And here I thought Americans were the ones who are supposed to be loudmouthed and opinionated. There is really no way to answer this question and come out unscathed. So I just fell back on the dumb-American stereotype. "I'm sorry; which idiot?" was my usual reply.

These days, South Africans are sometimes considered left of left. The Communist Party holds seats in Parliament. It's no secret here that people love Barack Obama -- and that seems to include South Africans of all backgrounds. City Press editor Ferial Haffajee even gave the U.S. president the highest praise one can possibly give in this country when she described Obama as "a bit like a Mandela for the 21st century."

During such discussions, I have mostly managed to politely extricate myself with journalistic impartiality intact -- and before my interrogator has the chance to give me grief about being from Texas. What I can't figure out for the life of me is why people care about the election.

Over coffee the other day, a friend harangued me for half an hour about Mitt Romney's stance on abortion, and his belief that a Romney victory would be catastrophic for women's rights. Why, I wondered, would a 50-year-old man living in South Africa care about my future reproductive rights?


Source: The Root | Anita Powell
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