President Obama gave a moving speech in Accra, Ghana, this morning, addressing the Ghanaian Parliament and expressing his belief that Africa needs to concentrate on structuring sound governments in order to rebuild and prepare for the future.
It was a speech that the NYTimes dubbed "tough love," and perhaps rightfully so: the President praised the progress that Ghana had made, thanks to its embrace of a democratic system, but also made a point to send the message that while the United States was willing to provide aid and support to Africa, it was up to Africans themselves to move the continent forward.
"I say this knowing full well the tragic past that has sometimes haunted this part of the world. After all, I have the blood of Africa within me, and my own family's story encompasses both the tragedies and triumphs of the larger African story," the President remarked, acknowledging that while Colonialism and the destructive impact of the West have bred many of the continent's current problems, "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," and that creating governments that are led by strong leaders who have the best interests of the people in mind "is the change that can unlock Africa's potential. And that is a responsibility that can be met only by Africans."
Obama also acknowledged the success of the democratic system in Ghana and upheld it as an example of progress that can be made when a solid government is in place: "The people of Ghana have worked hard to put democracy on a firmer footing, with peaceful transfers of power even in the wake of closely contested elections. And with improved governance and an emerging civil society, Ghana's economy has shown impressive rates of growth." The President also promised 63 billion dollars in aid, to help the continent fight the spread of HIV/AIDS, polio, malaria, and tuberculosis. It was a speech that wavered between inspirational and confrontational, and the President made sure to emphasize that though the United States would be there for support, it was up to African countries to take control over their own futures. It was a speech that perhaps could best be summed up by the banner hanging in the Parliament building: "Yes, Together, We Can."
A clip of Obama's speech (the quality is not great, but it is what the networks were showing, so I believe it is the only footage out there at the moment) below: