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General News of Saturday, 11 July 2009

Source: GNA

Africa to shape the 21st century- Obama

Accra, July 11, GNA - US President Barack Hussein Obama on Saturday predicted that the 21st Century would be not only be shaped by happenings in the advanced economies, but what takes place in Africa as well.

He drew a linkage between the prosperity of Africa and America, saying that Africa as a fundamental part of the interconnected world must be grounded in mutual responsibility.

"This is the simple truth of a time when the boundaries between people are overwhelmed by our connections. Your prosperity can expand America's.

".And the strength of your democracy can help advance human rights for people everywhere," President Obama said in a speech dubbed: "A New Moment of Promise" to Ghana Parliament, televised live nationwide, on his historic first visit to sub-Saharan Africa.

The 48-year-old President had visited Russia for a summit between the two great powers and the G8 Summit in Italy before arriving in Ghana accompanied by his wife, Michelle and children Masha and Malia.

He said he came to Ghana for the simple reason that the "21st century will be shaped by what happens not just in Rome or Moscow or Washington, but by what happens in Accra as well."

President Obama stressed on good governance and structures as fundamental to the continent's development, which he observed had been missing for far too long.

Good governance was the change that could unlock Africa's potential and that was a responsibility that could only be met by Africans, he said, adding "we must start from the simple premise that Africa's future is up to Africans.

"I say this knowing fully well the tragic past that has sometimes haunted this part of the world. I have the blood of Africa within me, and my family's own story encompasses both the tragedies and triumphs of the larger African story.

My grandfather was a cook for the British in Kenya, and though he was a respected elder in his village, his employers called him "boy" for much of his life. He was on the periphery of Kenya's liberation struggles, but he was still imprisoned briefly during repressive times. In his life, colonialism wasn't simply the creation of unnatural borders or unfair terms of trade - it was something experienced personally, day after day, year after year.

My father grew up herding goats in a tiny village, an impossible distance away from the American universities, where he would come to get an education. He came of age at an extraordinary moment of promise for Africa. The struggles of his own father's generation were giving birth to new nations, beginning right here in Ghana. Africans were educating and asserting themselves in new ways. History was on the move."

The US President urged Africa to move beyond apportioning its development retardation on colonial masters, explaining that the "West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade, or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants." "In my father's life, it was partly tribalism and patronage in an independent Kenya that for a long stretch, derailed his career, and we know that this kind of corruption is a daily fact of life for far too many."

President Obama commended the people of Ghana for working hard to put democracy on a firmer footing, with peaceful transfers of power even in the wake of closely contested elections.

President Obama said despite the progress that had been made in parts of Africa, there was the need to change Africa's relationship with America as patron to partner.

However, this "progress may lack the drama of the 20th century's liberation struggles".

President Obama cautioned that it would be more challenging to emerge from the control of another nation, and even more important to build one's own.

"So I believe that this moment is just as promising for Ghana - and for Africa - as the moment when my father came of age and new nations were being born. This is a new moment of promise. "Only this time, we have learned that it will not be giants like Nkrumah and Kenyatta who will determine Africa's future. Instead, it will be you - the men and women in Ghana's Parliament, and the people you represent. Above all, it will be the young people - brimming with talent and energy and hope - who can claim the future that so many in my father's generation never found. " President Obama said the commitment of America and the West be measured by more than just the dollars they spent, and pledged substantial increases in America's foreign assistance to Africa. He said mutual responsibility must be the foundation of the partnership, and focused the four areas that were critical to the future of Africa and the entire developing world as: democracy; opportunity; health; and the peaceful resolution of conflicts.

With emphasis on strong and sustainable democratic governments, President Obama observed that governments that respect the will of the people are more prosperous, more stable, and more successful than governments that did not.

"It's also about what happens between them. Repression takes many forms, and too many nations are plagued by problems that condemn their people to poverty. No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves, or if the police can be bought off by drug traffickers.

"No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 per cent 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."

President Obama said in the 21st century, capable, reliable and transparent institutions like strong parliaments and honest police forces; independent judges and journalists; a vibrant private sector and civil society were the things that give life to democracy and what mattered in peoples' lives.

President Obama said time and again Ghanaians had chosen Constitutional rule over autocracy, and shown a democratic spirit that allowed the energy of your people to break through.

"We see that in leaders who accept defeat graciously, and victors who resist calls to wield power against the opposition.

We see that spirit in courageous journalists like Anas Aremeyaw Anas, who risked his life to report the truth. We see it in the police like Patience Quaye, who helped prosecute the first human trafficker in Ghana. We see it in the young people who are speaking up against patronage, and participating in the political process. "

President Obama underlined the need for people to take control of their destiny, and make change from the bottom up, adding that history was often on the side of brave Africans, and not with those who use coups or change Constitutions to stay in power.

"Africa doesn't need strongmen, it needs strong institutions," the President said.

"America will not seek to impose any system of government on any other nation - the essential truth of democracy is that each nation determines its own destiny. What we will do is increase assistance for responsible individuals and institutions, with a focus on supporting good governance - on parliaments, which check abuses of power and ensure that opposition voices are heard; on the rule of law, which ensures the equal administration of justice; on civic participation, so that young people get involved; and on concrete solutions to corruption like forensic accounting, automating services, strengthening hotlines, and protecting whistle-blowers to advance transparency and accountability." President Obama said as the US reached for this promise, it would be more responsible in extending its hand and by cutting costs that go to Western consultants and administration, "we will put more resources in the hands of those who need it, while training people to do more for themselves".

"That is why our $3.5 billion food security initiative is focused on new methods and technologies for farmers - not simply sending American producers or goods to Africa. Aid is not an end in itself. The purpose of foreign assistance must be creating the conditions where it is no longer needed."

President Obama said America could do more to promote trade and investment, and called on wealthy nations to open its doors to goods and services from Africa in a meaningful way.

He said where there was good governance it could broaden prosperity through public-private partnerships that invest in better roads and electricity; capacity-building that trains people to grow a business; and financial services that reach poor and rural areas. This he said was in the interest of the US if people were lifted out of poverty and wealth was created in Africa, new markets would open for "our own goods".

He said Africa gave off less greenhouse gas than any other part of the world, but it was the most threatened by climate change, but warming planet would spread disease, shrink water resources, and deplete crops, creating conditions that produced more famine and conflict.

President Obama said the developed world particularly had a responsibility to slow those trends through mitigation, and by changing the way that "we use energy", adding that it could also work with Africans to turn the crisis into opportunity.

"Together, we can partner on behalf of our planet and prosperity, and help countries increase access to power while skipping the dirtier phase of development. Across Africa, there is bountiful wind and solar power; geothermal energy and bio-fuels. From the Rift Valley to the North African deserts; from the Western Coast to South Africa's crops -Africa's boundless natural gifts can generate its own power, while exporting profitable, clean energy abroad.

These steps are about more than growth numbers on a balance sheet. They're about whether a young person with an education can get a job that supports a family; a farmer can transfer their goods to the market; or an entrepreneur with a good idea can start a business. It's about the dignity of work. It's about the opportunity that must exist for Africans in the 21st century.

On public health, President Obama said enormous progress has been made in parts of Africa. "Far more people are living productively with HIV/AIDS, and getting the drugs they need. But too many still die from diseases that shouldn't kill them. When children are being killed because of a mosquito bite, and mothers are dying in childbirth, then we know that more progress must be made".

"Yet because of incentives - often provided by donor nations - many African doctors and nurses understandably go overseas, or work for programmes that focus on a single disease. This creates gaps in primary care and basic prevention.

Meanwhile, individual Africans also have to make responsible choices that prevent the spread of disease, while promoting public health in their communities and countries.

Across Africa, there are examples of people tackling these problems. In Nigeria, an Interfaith effort of Christians and Muslims has set an example of co-operation to confront malaria. Here in Ghana and across Africa, we see innovative ideas for filling gaps in care - for instance, through E-Health initiatives that allow doctors in big cities to support those in small towns",

He said there was a call of conscience and common interest to help prevent disease, adding that his Administration committed $63 billion to meet those challenges.

President Obama said the US Administration would build on the efforts of his predecessor, Mr George Walker Bush, and would carry forward the fight against HIV/AIDS, and pursue the goal of ending deaths from malaria and tuberculosis, and eradicating polio. "We will fight neglected tropical diseases. And we won't confront illnesses in isolation - we will invest in public health systems that promote wellness, and focus on the health of mothers and children."

President Obama said conflicts had become a millstone around Africa's neck, and despite many identities of ethnicity, religion and nationality, defining oneself in opposition to someone who belongs to a different tribe, or who worships a different prophet, had no place in the 21st century.

He called for Africa's diversity to be a source of strength, not a cause for division, and with an expression of belief as all being God's children, adding, "we must stand up to inhumanity in our midst. It is never justifiable to target innocents in the name of ideology. He said Ghanaians should take pride in their contributions to peacekeeping from Congo to Liberia to Lebanon, and in their efforts to resist the scourge of the drug trade.

The US President said America welcomed the steps that were being taken by organizations like the African Union and ECOWAS to better resolve conflicts, keep the peace, and support those in need. "And we encourage the vision of a strong, regional security architecture that can bring effective, trans-national force to bear when needed.

"America has a responsibility to advance global security," President Obama said, adding that the Africa Command of the US was focused not on establishing a foothold in the continent, but on confronting common challenges to advance the security of America, Africa and the world.

He called on Africans to take their future into their own hands, and announced that African-Americans in the US including so many recent immigrants had thrived in every sector of society despite a difficult past.

They had also drawn the strength from "our African heritage". "With strong institutions and a strong will, I know that Africans can live their dreams in Nairobi and Lagos; in Kigali and Kinshasa; in Harare and right here in Accra.

"Fifty-two years ago, the eyes of the world were on Ghana. And a young preacher named Martin Luther King travelled here, to Accra, to watch the Union Jack come down and the Ghanaian flag go up. This was before the march on Washington or the success of the civil rights movement in my country. Dr. King was asked how he felt while watching the birth of a nation. And he said: "It renews my conviction in the ultimate triumph of justice".

"Now, that triumph must be won once more, it must be won by you. And I am particularly speaking to the young people. In places like Ghana, you make up over half of the population. Here is what you must know: the world will be what you make of it."

President Obama pledged American support as partner and friend, but however called on Africans to take the responsibility to build upon the foundation of freedom.

" And if you do, we will look back years from now to places like Accra and say that this was the time when the promise was realized - this was the moment when prosperity was forged; pain was overcome; and a new era of progress began. This can be the time when we witness the triumph of justice once more." 11 July 09

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