President Obama’s African Visit

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Originally published at care2.com on July 12, 2009

President Obama chose to visit Ghana, a functioning democracy in West Africa, despite his personal ties to Kenya, his father’s homeland.  The President’s diplomatic tour put Ghana on the map purposely, a show of diplomatic respect. In his speech to the Ghanaian Parliament, which the U.S. embassy helped make available more widely, Mr. Obama recognized that, through democracy and honest government, Ghana had made progress for its people.

The President’s message was that all Africans should look to Ghana for examples of what works.  Recognizing endemic problems with development in Africa, Mr. Obama said, “No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top, or the head of the port authority is corrupt.”  “No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy, that is tyranny, and now is the time for it to end.”

In one of the most inspirational passages, the President noted that Martin Luther King traveled to Ghana in 1961 to watch Ghana’s rebirth as an independent nation.  Then to the future of Africa he said, “I am particularly speaking to the young people all accross Africa and right here in Ghana. . . . And here is what you must know.  The world will be what you make of it.  You have the power to hold your leaders accountable and build institutions that serve the people. . . . But only if you take responsibility for your future. . . . But I can promise you this, America will be with you every step of the way.”  Full transcript

The Ghanain President John Atta Mills responded, “This encourages us also to sustain the gains that we have made in our democratic processes.”  “I can say without any fear of contradiction that all Ghanaians want to see you. I wish it was possible for me to send you to every home in Ghana.” Public response;  NYTimes Images from Ghana

President Obama also sought to put U.S. foreign aid in a sober context saying that the United States was willing to give aid to support new development, but the burden should be on Africans to make their own progress sustainable. He urged self-reliance across the continent and offered help getting started. “Aid is not an end in itself,” he said. “The purpose of foreign assistance must be creating the conditions where it is no longer needed.”

Ghana is a bustling country with a large metropolitan coastal city, Accra, and vast natural resources, including rainforest.  It has substantial tourism and was host to the 2008 Africa Cup soccer tournament and is a center of trade in African arts and crafts.  It is also the site of Cape Coast, a major slave-trade port from which slaves were shipped to the Americas (pictured above).

A great humorous moment of the President’s visit was when he was introduced to the Parliament of Ghana by a trumpet flourish.  Laughing, and likely wondering how long it was going to go on, the President started his addresss at the pause with, “I think Congress needs one of those horns.”  See first link below.

(the rest of the speech)

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One response to “President Obama’s African Visit

  1. Tyler Bradt

    Interesting that Obama, and almost no one, mentions this part of Ghana… http://iaminformed.wordpress.com/2009/07/21/the-ewaste-nightmare-ghana-china-vietnam-the-list-goes-on/ …the worst part here, is that Obama has a lot of power to change this to a real sustainable industry right in Ghana.

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