News24

'Africa needs more openness'

2009-07-14 08:50

Washington - President Barack Obama continued to press African countries to be more open and honest on Monday, using a video format to address Africans from Washington two days after he made a major speech in Ghana.

Too many well-educated Africans who have left the continent "feel economic opportunities are blocked or limited" there because of incompetent governments or corruption that requires them to pay bribes to get jobs, the president said in a video to be distributed on the White House web site and elsewhere.

In the video, he answered three questions submitted by Africans by e-mail, Twitter and other social networks. Washington-based African journalists selected the questions from several thousand submitted during the build-up to Obama's one-day visit to Ghana last weekend.

"The most important thing we can do to get young people back to Africa is for them to feel that they've got a future, that they've got opportunities in Africa," Obama said in answering a query from a Nigerian man.

Africa's brain drain

"If people feel that the rule of law exists; if people feel that once they get a good education, they can start a business" or otherwise get ahead through their own merit, he said, then Africa's "brain drain" might begin to reverse as expatriates come home.

While the United States has its faults, Obama said, "people still feel opportunities are greater there because of greater governance."

His remarks echoed themes from his Saturday speech to Ghana's parliament. There, Obama said Africans must determine their future, and he urged the continent's governments and people to bring about greater openness, fairness and honesty.

Obama, whose Kenyan father came to the United States for college, also said he wants better trade relations between the United States and Africa.

Respect for rule of law

He said he wants an environment in which Africa's economic development is not based on "dribbles of foreign aid but rather is going to be based on how do we build capacity within Africa." Africans must improve "respect for rule of law and property rights," he said, which would spur investments.

On trade, Obama said, "we want to, wherever we can, provide the kinds of access to the US global markets that can really make a difference, and to the extent that we can, invest in mechanisms so that ordinary people - farmers, small business people - can access these markets in a fair and free way."

At last week's G-8 summit in Italy, Obama praised efforts to devote an extra $20bn in international "food security" aid for Africa, donated by several countries.

The money will largely be spent on means to improve agricultural practices, meant to provide a more sustained benefit for poor countries than would one-time donations of food.

AP