President Obama hosted a town hall at the White House today with hundreds of young African leaders, telling them that they are poised to challenge their continent's corrupt and flawed methods of governance.
"In some of your countries, the problem of corruption is chronic," Mr. Obama said to the 115 young leaders from 40 African countries. "People who have been doing business in your country for 20, 30 years will throw up their hands and say, 'That's the way it is.'"
But there's no reason, the president said, that African nations can't establish more effective and just governments or stimulate economic development. With that in mind, Mr. Obama said, the United States should "communicate directly to people who may not assume the old ways of doing business is the way you have to do business."
The White House visitors came to the United States for the White House's "Forum with Young African Leaders." The guests, representing both the public and private sectors, are meeting in Washington with their U.S. counterparts and other government officials.
Mr. Obama said he wanted to bring Africa's young leaders together so they could establish a support network within their continent.
"Sometimes change makes you feel lonely," he said. "Now you've got a group of people who can reinforce what you're doing."
The president said that the United States has incentive to see Africa thrive, since its interests overlap with American interests. Economic growth and the expansion of consumerism in Africa will lead to more production of goods from the United States, and thus more jobs, he argued.
"Your success will enhance our position rather than reduce it," Mr. Obama told the group.
He added that Americans want to see Africa succeed since so much aid is directed toward the continent.
"What the American people don't want is to feel that their efforts at helping are wasted," he said.
Mr. Obama told the African leaders that the World Cup and the concurrent bombing in Uganda that killed 64 people offers the perfect metaphor for Africa: The nations of the continent, he said, have the choice to either come together to improve their standing in the world or go in the direction of more poverty and conflict.