29 June 2013

Africa: Obama Says U.S. Not Threatened By Chinese Interest in Africa

US President Barack Obama has appealed to all Africans to ask more questions about unequal deals with some foreign investors. Meanwhile the President has met with Nelson Mandela's family.

In a joint press conference with South African leader Jacob Zuma Saturday, President Obama said he welcomed renewed interest in Africa from larger emerging markets.

"I actually welcome the attention that Africa is receiving from countries like China and Brazil and India and Turkey," he said.

He went on to urge all African countries to ensure dealings with foreign investors were fair for Africa, dismissing talk of a Chinese and US tussle for influence on the continent.

"When we look at what other countries are doing in Africa, I think our only advice is: make sure it's a good deal for Africa."

While "enormous progress" was being made across African economies, Obama said, all too often foreign investment did not benefit locals and encouraged fraud. Stripping the continent of natural resources, he added, was also a major problem.

Obama said he accepted that countries like India and China were making headway within Africa, but added "it is important for Africans to make sure these interactions are good for Africa."

"Africa is on the rise, and South Africa is always at the forefront of trends in Africa," he said.

"South Africa," he added, "is critical to one of my top priorities on this trip and that is to promote trade and investment, to unleash growth in Africa, which will ultimately benefit the United States of America."

As Zuma welcomed Obama to South Africa he said the first black US president "carried the dreams of millions of people in Africa."

"You and Nelson Mandela are bound by history. You are both the first black presidents of your respective countries."

Meeting Mandela's family

Later on Saturday, the Obama's met privately with relatives of former South African President Nelson Mandela at the Nelson Mandela Center of Memory in Pretoria.

A White House statement issued earlier in the day said the president would not be meeting the critically ill anti-apartheid leader in hospital.

"Out of deference to Nelson Mandela's peace and comfort and the family's wishes, they will not be visiting the hospital," an unnamed US official told the news agency AFP.

Mandela, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, is critically ill with a recurrent lung disease dating from his time in apartheid-era prisons, where he was incarcerated for 27 years for his struggle under white-minority rule.

Later on Saturday, the Obama is set to meet with young people in Soweto, the scene of the 1976 student protests against the racist apartheid regime where Mandela and fellow African National Congress leaders were incarcerated.

Obama and Zuma will hold talks over the coming three days which are set to focus on trade, boosting economic ties and regional security in Africa.

The US president arrived late on Friday from Senegal, where he began his Africa tour. He is accompanied by his wife, Michelle Obama, and their daughters, Malia and Sasha.

Obama's three-country tour concludes next week in Tanzania.

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