Shortly, you and your family will board Air Force One and head to Africa, on a journey that will take you to Senegal, Tanzania and South Africa. During your first term in the White House you visited Ghana, where you made the famous 'Africa does not need strong men, it needs strong institutions' speech, and Egypt, before it became engulfed in the Arab spring revolutionary fervor.
In a sense, you return to the same huge planet (30.22 sq. km) comprising of 54 countries and a combined diverse population of 1.033 billion. It is the same Africa considered by many as the cradle of humankind, and one that has lured fortune hunters, be they slave traders, colonialists, vicious spies during the Cold War, or modern day states and corporate types in search of business and natural resources.
Being a good student of history, you are familiar with Africa's contending narratives. Our continent falls perfectly within the 'glass half-full or half-empty' analogy. Of late, many among Africa's ruling elite and the international community have amplified their voices; selling the idea that Africa is on the ascendancy, destined to become a powerhouse within the next few decades. To them, the glass is half-full. On the other hand, there are those who point to Africa's sore spots and open wounds; poverty, HIV/AIDS, illiteracy, poor infrastructure, poor governance, human rights abuses, violent conflicts and terrorism, failed or failing states, and environmental degradation. To these folks, Africa is your typical half-empty glass.
Between these two extremes of optimism and pessimism lies the true condition of the African people, which you are invited to seek to learn about, first and foremost. This is the world that, on behalf of the most powerful nation on planet earth, you can help overcome human suffering and shape the hopeful place of peace and prosperity that Africa desires to become. History will, unfortunately, remind you that Africa is not particularly a place to secure a permanent positive legacy among great American Presidents.
Yet, for you, Mr. President, the stakes could not be higher, simply because of the initial high expectations that greeted your Presidency. Africans then expected, and remain hopeful, albeit with reduced expectation, that the first African-American U.S. President with a very recent African ancestry will do much more than his predecessors.
I am convinced beyond doubt that you have pondered this matter over and over again. How will Africans remember you? How can this Africa visit create value for African and the American people? Here is some open advice, assuming it gets past the gatekeepers at the White House and State Department to get to you: