Accra, Ghana: Obama reveals United States’ priorities for Africa

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Good governance will determine future relations between the United States and African countries. This is the message sent to politicians in Ghana and Africa by President Barack Obama during his first official visit to sub-Saharan Africa.

Barack Obama has established in Ghana, where he finished Saturday’s first official visit to sub-Saharan Africa, the foundations of a new partnership between the United States and Africa. Countries favoured by Washington are those that will emulate the Ghanaian example. The American president has made good governance a prerequisite for cooperation. Barack Obama suggests that this “ingredient that is missing in too many countries for far too long” is what will “unlock the potential of Africa.” Ghana has been erected as a beacon. “You show us an aspect of Africa that is too often overlooked by a world that sees only the tragedies (…). The people of Ghana have worked hard to consolidate democracy,” he said.

Henceforth, African countries can count on the support and friendship of the United States, but under certain conditions. The new partnership mentioned by Barack Obama before the Ghanaian Parliament on Saturday morning will be based on responsibility and mutual respect, related to one principle: “Africans must decide their own future”.

Good governance above all else

The US president, describing himself as a man with “African blood” running through his veins, outlined his strategy for Africa. First of all: the United States will support “strong and sustainable democracy” and provide assistance, which will be increased, “to individuals and institutions engaged in
promoting good governance”.

Secondly: U.S. assistance will be more focused and more efficient in an economic point of view. “By reducing the amounts that go to Western consultants and the government, we want to put more resources into the hands of those in need.” Barack Obama proved the second point as he announced a $ 3.5 billion food security initiative, which will focus on the establishment of new agricultural technologies and methods. It will not be based on the mere dispatching of “U.S. goods and services to Africa.”

Similarly, the US President has promised a “significant” opening in the U.S. market for African products and services. Barack Obama is not only determined to consolidate a strategy adopted by President Bill Clinton in 2000 with the launching of AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act), and continued by President Bush, but also aims to expertise with African countries in the field of renewable energy as well as helping them in the fight against global warming.

Third priority for the Obama administration is public health. The United States will invest $ 63 million in order to enable African countries benefit from telemedicine. More funds will be devoted to the fight against AIDS while emphasis will be placed on maternal and child health.

The power of youth

The promotion of peace constitutes the final part of the United States’ new African strategy. The U.S. president called on African states to chose peaceful solutions over conflicts. ” Africa is not a gross caricature of a continent perpetually at war”, he said. But if people are honest, for too many Africans, the conflict is part of life, as constant as the sun.”

That is why the United States will support the initiatives aimed at forcing war criminals to account. The American president has also made a clarification, indicating that the United States command for Africa (Africom) was not intended to gain a foothold on the continent, but to face these challenges in order to enhance the security of the United States, Africa and the rest of the world. According the the US President, for many, the establishment of Africom is viewed as a means for the United States to interfere in African affairs.

The engine of change, which the United States wishes to contribute in Africa, will be the youth, according to President Obama. “It will be the young people brimming with talent and energy and hope who can claim the future that so many in previous generations never realized..” According to him they have “the power to empower (their) leadership and build institutions that serve the people”. “Yes you can”, he assured them repeating his campaign slogan.

In Ghana, Barack Obama talked a lot about the future. But he and his family also took time to discover a bit of the past as they visited one of the strongest bastions during the trans-atlantic slave trade: Cape Coast Castle; A fortified castle through which the ancestors of many African-Americans passed. “As African Americans obviously, there is a special sense that on the one hand this place was a place of profound sadness, on the other hand it is here that the journey of much of the African-American experience began.” He said. This journey into the past was the final point of a highly symbolic visit to Ghana and the African continent.

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