1 July 2013

Africa: Obama Promises Africa a 'Partnership of Equals'

Photo: Pete Souza/White House
President Obama answers questions at a Young African Leaders Initiative town hall meeting in Soweto.

Cape Town — President Barack Obama has promised Africa "a new model of partnership" which moves beyond the provision of aid and is focussed on increased trade and investment, including a multi-billion dollar investment to double electricity generation across sub-Saharan Africa.

Delivering what the White House billed as the most important speech of his six-day trip to Africa, Obama described his initiative as "a partnership of equals that focuses on your capacity to solve problems, and your capacity to grow."

He highlighted three areas: power generation, food security and health and peace and security.

Of the three, the initiative which received most attention was a promise of U.S.7 billion in American government resources to expand power grids. Obama said the U.S. would work in partnership with the private sector, which he said had committed another $9 billion.

On food security and health, he said the U.S. was already helping millions of small farmers make use of new technologies. He added: "Through a new alliance of governments and the private sector, we're investing billions of dollars in agriculture that grows more crops, brings more food to market, give farmers better prices and helps lift 50 million people out of poverty in a decade."

Turning to the third area, he defended the use of U.S. military power in Africa and announced a summit of Africa heads of state in the U.S. next year. "I know there's a lot of talk of America's military presence in Africa," he said. "But if you look at what we're actually doing, time and again, we're putting muscle behind African efforts."

In other sections of his address, Obama recommitted his adminstration to promoting trade and investment with Africa, and re-asserted his statement in Ghana in 2009 that the U.S. wanted to promote "strong institutions", not "strongmen" in Africa.

He said democracy and transparency are not "Western exports" and called for a free, fair and peaceful election in Zimbabwe. On women's rights, he said that a country's progress could be measured by how women were treated. And, he added, although Africa is rising, "this progress... rests on a fragile foundation."

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