Obama: Supporting Africa While Pushing Self-Reliance

America will be a solid partner for Africa, but "Africa's future is up to Africans," President Obama said today in a speech before the Ghanaian parliament in the capital, Accra.

Mr. Obama said the United States has substantially increased its pledges of financial support for Africa — which, he said, is in the best interests of both Africa and the U.S. — but the success of that aid will be measured on whether it helps the continent become more self-sustainable.

(AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
"Here is what you must know: the world will be what you make of it," Mr. Obama said, indicating he was addressing young people in particular. "You have the power to hold your leaders accountable and to build institutions that serve the people. You can serve in your communities and harness your energy and education to create new wealth . . . You can do that. Yes, you can. Because in this moment, history is on the move."

(Read the complete transcript of President Obama's speech to Ghana's parliament.)

There will be setbacks along the way, Mr. Obama said, adding, "But I can promise you this: America will be with you. As a partner. As a friend."

The president acknowledged his personal connection to the continent, saying, "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."

He said that in an increasingly connected world, America's and Africa's prosperity and security are connected.

The continent of Africa will benefit from a focus on democracy, opportunity, health and conflict resolution, Mr. Obama said.

He assured support for strong and sustainable governments, but made clear that the United States will not impose any system of government on any other nation.

"The essential truth of democracy is that each nation determines its own destiny," he said.

While his administration will increase assistance for responsible governments, Mr. Obama said, it will also give greater attention to corruption in its human rights report.

"People everywhere should have the right to start a business or get an education without paying a bribe," he said. "We have a responsibility to support those who act responsibly and to isolate those who don't, and that is exactly what America will do."

The United States will also support economic self-sufficiency, he said, with targeted aid. America's $3.5 billion food security initiative is focused on new methods and technologies for farmers, rather than sending American producers or goods to Africa.

"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."

Countries like Ghana, Mr. Obma said, cannot rely too heavily on commodities and must diversify their economies. One area of great potential, he pointed out, is energy production.

"Africa gives off less greenhouse gas than any other part of the world, but it is the most threatened by climate change," he said.

There should also be greater incentives in Africa, Mr. Obama said, for doctors and nurses to provide preventative and basic care. The United States, he said, will build on President Bush's efforts to fight diseases like AIDS with a commitment of $63 billion.

"In the 21st century, we are called to act by our conscience and our common interest," Mr. Obama said. "When a child dies of a preventable illness in Accra, that diminishes us everywhere."

As the region works to improve the health of its citizens, it must also show less tolerance for tribal, ethnic, or other forms of conflict, he said. These conflicts remain a "millstone around Africa's neck."

"Defining oneself in opposition to someone who belongs to a different tribe, or who worships a different prophet, has no place in the 21st century," Mr. Obama said. "Africa's diversity should be a source of strength, not a cause for division."

It is never justifiable to target innocents in the name of ideology, he said.

"We must bear witness to the value of every child in Darfur and the dignity of every woman in Congo," Mr. Obama said.