Dakar – US President Barack Obama is pitching foreign aid
and, by extension, an image of a new Africa - not one of malnourished children
with hollow eyes and distended tummies, but one of smiles and plump babies.
Obama on Friday toured a series of booths set up behind
his Dakar hotel that were designed to showcase Senegalese agriculture with a
focus on nutrition and fortified foods.
At one of the booths, a large poster featured a
healthy-looking baby in the arms of a smiling mother.
"That's a big, fat and happy kid," Obama said.
At another, he spoke to a farmer who displayed a sweet
potato fortified with beta-carotene.
"This is not just your average sweet potato,"
"This is your super-duper sweet potato."
The message was in part meant for an audience back home,
where foreign aid in an age of budget squeezes is often first in line for
The food programmes get help from Feed the Future, a
public private partnership initiated in 2010 that the administration says has
helped seven million small farmers in 19 developing nations, including 7 000 in
"When people ask what is happening to their taxpayer
dollars in foreign aid, I want people to know that this money is not being
wasted," Obama said.
"It's helping feed families, it's helping people to
become more self-sufficient, and it's creating new markets for US companies.
It's a win-win situation."
He needled reporters following him, whose questions have
focused on recent Supreme Court decisions back home, and on the whereabouts of
secrets-leaker Edward Snowden.
"I know that millet and maize and fertilizer doesn't
always make for sexy copy," he said.
He asked a farmer at a display booth to show reporters
some of his rice. "These are some city people," he said of the
Then teased them, as if imparting a lesson: "This is
where rice comes from."
As for the rice, he said he'd like to see it served at
the White House.
"We'll have the White House chef whip it up,"