In the end, President Obama may have gotten closer to the bones of ancient mankind than to ordinary Africans on what was probably his last trip to Africa as president. But no one can say he did not try.
In a region that is home to some of the world’s newest tech start-ups and oldest wars, Obama tried to reconcile his abundant hope for Africa’s future with a determination to tell the truth about its challenges, past and present.
In a major speech to Kenyan students and in more intimate gatherings with members of civil society, he sometimes seemed torn between heaping praise on the economic progress that has lifted living standards for millions and acknowledging the corruption, violence and security issues that continue to afflict the continent.
He celebrated the ingenuity of African business leaders and then promptly confronted South Sudan’s deepening civil war. His plane took off for Ethiopia, one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, just as a prominent hotel was attacked in neighboring Somalia.