Obama speaks about trip to Africa

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President Barack Obama sat down with AllAfrica.com before he left the country for Ghana. Watch excerpt of video or view full version at AllAfrica.com

Q How is it that you happened to pick Ghana as the first place to visit in sub-Saharan Africa?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, part of the reason is because that Ghana has now undergone a couple of successful elections in which power was transferred peacefully, even a very close election. I think that the new President, President Mills, has shown himself committed to the rule of law, to the kinds of democratic commitments that ensure stability in a country. And I think that there is a direct correlation between governance and prosperity.

I actually thought that it made sense for us to connect a trip to Ghana to a previous trip with the G8, and we’ll be meeting a number of African countries in Italy during the G8 meeting — before that, a meeting in Russia — to show that Africa is directly connected to our entire foreign policy approach; that it’s not some isolated thing where once every term you go visit Africa for a while to check that box, but rather it’s an ongoing part of a broader discussion about how we move many of these international challenges forward.

You’ve got some very strong leadership in Africa that is ready to move forward and we want to be there with them.

On the economic front, that means opening up better trade opportunities. It means that we are interested not just in foreign aid, but in how we strengthen the capacity for development internally in these countries.

Ultimately, I’m a big believer that Africans are responsible for Africa.

I think part of what’s hampered advancement in Africa is that for many years we’ve made excuses about corruption or poor governance; that this was somehow the consequence of neo-colonialism, or the West has been oppressive, or racism — I’m not a big — I’m not a believer in excuses.

I’d say I’m probably as knowledgeable about African history as anybody who’s occupied my office. And I can give you chapter and verse on why the colonial maps that were drawn helped to spur on conflict, and the terms of trade that were uneven emerging out of colonialism.

And yet the fact is we’re in 2009. The West and the United States has not been responsible for what’s happened to Zimbabwe’s economy over the last 15 or 20 years. It hasn’t been responsible for some of the disastrous policies that we’ve seen elsewhere in Africa. And I think that it’s very important for African leadership to take responsibility and be held accountable.

And I think the people of Africa understand that. The problem is, is that they just haven’t always had the opportunities to organize and voice their opinions in ways that create better results.

I would like, at the end of my term in office, to be able to say that the United States was an effective partner with countries throughout Africa in building the kinds of institutions, both political, civil, economic, that allowed for improving standards of living and greater security for the people of Africa; that we moved them on a trajectory in which they are integrating with the global economy; and that a young person growing up in Johannesburg or Lagos or Nairobi or Djibouti can say to themselves, I can stay here in Africa, I can stay in my country and succeed, and through my success, my country and my people will get stronger.

That would be a good legacy. I don’t expect that we’re going to get there in four years or eight years, but I think we can get on that path.

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