2009/07/10

Obama Presses Africa on Corruption

President Obama told African countries on Friday that the legacy of colonialism was not an excuse for failing to build prosperous, democratic societies even as he unveiled a $20 billion program financed by the United States and other countries to help developing nations grow more food to feed their people.

Just hours before his scheduled departure for his first trip as president to sub-Saharan Africa, Mr. Obama made a personal appeal to other leaders of the Group of 8 powers to donate more money for the effort, citing his own family’s experiences in Kenya. As a result, the initiative grew from the $15 billion over three years that had been pledged coming into the summit meeting to $20 billion.

At a news conference afterward, Mr. Obama repeated some of the arguments he used in the private session on the initiative, noting that when his father came to the United States, his home country of Kenya had an economy as large as that of South Korea per capita. Today, he noted, Kenya remains impoverished and politically unstable, while South Korea has become an economic powerhouse.

“There had been some talk about the legacies of colonialism and other policies by wealthier nations,” he said, “and without in any way diminishing that history, the point I made was that the South Korean government, working with the private sector and civil society, was able to create a set of institutions that provided transparency and accountability and efficiency that allowed for extraordinary economic progress and that there was no reason why African countries could not do the same.”

He continued, “And yet, in many African countries, if you want to start a business or get a job you still have to pay a bribe.” While wealthier nations have an obligation to help Africa, he said, African nations “have a responsibility” to build transparent, efficient institutions.
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Mr. Obama’s comments on Africa may carry special resonance as the son of a Kenyan father. Other presidents have called on African countries to take more responsibility or fight corruption before, but Mr. Obama’s background gives him a connection and credibility that none of his predecessors could command. Just one generation removed from Africa himself, Mr. Obama occupies a powerful place in the African consciousness, and he has chosen to use his first trip in office there to push a dual message aimed at rich and poor.
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The United States under Mr. Bush and now Mr. Obama has poured more money into development aid, but Italy and France have not fulfilled their vows.

The new food security initiative is designed to transform the traditional aid to poorer countries beyond simply donated produce, grains and meats to assistance in building infrastructure and training farmers to grow their own food and get it to market more efficiently.

The $20 billion pledged by the Group of 8 countries and several others represented here amounts to a substantial commitment if carried out, but it remains unclear how much of it is actually new money. The American share of $3.5 billion over three years represents a doubling of previous spending levels.
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Oliver Buston, the Europe director for One, the advocacy group co-founded by the singer Bono, said the Group of 8 must do more than make promises. “All governments should now come forward and prove the amounts they pledged here are new. They need to make clear what they will do, by when. Some countries have done this; others have not.” in nytimes.com, July 10


G-8 + 5 + 1 + 5

Eventually, the so-called Group of 8 started what might be considered auxiliary clubs. And that was how they ended up with a meeting on Thursday that was actually dubbed the G-8 + 5 + 1 + 5. Seriously.

The group’s 35th gathering is such a sprawling event that the leaders of about 40 countries traveled here for it. No longer can just eight powers drive every decision. President Obama headed one meeting with 17 leaders for what he called a Major Economies Forum because there would be no point grappling with climate change without, say, China and India. idem, July 9


Africans are in love with him

Africans are in love with him (Obama) because he has an African pedigree: a Kenyan father and a humble, poor background. He is very well liked in Nigeria. You see people wearing t-shirts with his name and photograph, and some call their children Obama. When George Bush invaded Iraq people were very angry, but for the first time ever people are now in love with America. Obama is a saviour.

Africa has bad rule by presidents in countries where the governments are corrupt. Obama should talk to them about the issue. The corrupt leaders will feel they can relate to him, but he won't be tricked.

I would like him to address the oil-based economy in the Niger Delta. The government is not caring for the people in that region. They are drafting in soldiers to rape women and kill innocent people. There is hunger and poverty in the land. George Esri, 50, photographer from Lagos, Nigeria in guardian.co.uk, Friday 10 July 2009 16.02 BST


You should have seen the celebrations

You should have seen the celebrations here when Obama was elected. People are really hoping that he's going to come up with something. He has African roots and an instinct for Africa that he's shown by going to Kenya before. He'll come to Africa more than any other US president.

What worries me is that there is still corruption in our governments. It's not easy to put money in and be sure that it will get to the poorest of the poor. It ends up being used by the ministers. I would love Obama to say this is his major concern and it is a reason not to invest in African countries. The African Union is playing hide and seek and we need people like Obama say he is not going to invest in Zimbabwe.

If it can come from his mouth, people will be happy, because Obama is the Messiah of Africa. Sfiso Buthelezi, 26, customer services assistant from Soweto, South Africa idem


We'll listen

The American election was like watching soccer of Pop Idol. You ran home to it and asked, is he going to win? It meant hope for change and the beginning of a new world order. The whole of Africa stood up and said we have an African president. But he's only human, so let give him space to make decisions.

I bought his book and was amazed at his honesty, background and experiences. That somebody like that could rise to be president gives a lot of hope. He has so many cultures within him that wherever you're from, you can find yourself there.

I want him to encourage Africans to do it for themselves. I want him to say, "If I can do these things, anything's possible. I want you to find a way of leadership that works for you in an African context. Where I can support you in this, I will."

If George Bush had said "Africa arise", we'd have said, "What?" But Obama is like the Messiah. We're in awe and we'll listen. Mbali Kgosidintsi, 26, actress from Mogoditshane, Botswana ibidem

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