US President Barack Obama said yesterday that it was time for the world to change its approach to Africa, as he made the first address to the African Union by a US leader. “As Africa changes, I’ve called for the world to change its approach to Africa,” Obama said in a speech at the AU’s headquarters in Ethiopia’s capital.
“A half century into this independence era, it is long past time to put aside old stereotypes of an Africa forever mired in poverty and conflict. The world must recognise Africa’s extraordinary progress.”
Obama said Africa needed more trade, and that the United States was stepping up its business ties with the continent.
“So many Africans have told me: we don’t just want aid, we want trade that fuels our progress. We don’t want patrons, we want partners who help us build our own capacity to grow. We don’t want the indignity of dependence, we want to make our own choices and determine our own future,” he said.
Obama said the United States was a trusted partner of the continent, and took a veiled swipe at China — which has massively stepped up its presence on the continent.
“Economic relationships cannot simply be about other countries building infrastructure with foreign labour or extracting Africa’s natural resources,” Obama said.
“Real economic partnerships have to be a good deal for Africa. They have to create jobs and capacity for Africans. That’s the kind of partnership America offers.”
The United States, he said, stood with Africa to defeat terrorism and end conflict, warning that the continent’s progress will “depend on security and peace”.
“As Africa stands against terror and conflict, I want you to know the United States stands with you,” President Obama said, highlighting threats ranging from Somalia’s Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram in Nigeria, insurgents in Mali and Tunisia, and the Uganda-led Lord’s Resistance Army rebels in central Africa.
He said the United States was backing AU military efforts and saluting the “brave African peacekeepers” battling militants.
“From Somalia and Nigeria, to Mali and Tunisia, terrorists continue to target innocent civilians,” he said.
“Many of these groups claim the banner of religion, but hundreds of millions of African Muslims know that Islam means peace.
“We must call groups like Al-Qaeda, ISIL (Islamic State), Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram, we must call them what they are — murderers.”
But he also said that progress was being made.
“Because of the AU force in Somalia, Al-Shabaab controls less territory, and the Somali government is growing stronger. In central Africa, the AU-led mission continues to degrade the Lord’s Resistance Army,” he said.
“In the Lake Chad basin, forces from several nations — with the backing of the AU —are fighting to end Boko Haram’s senseless brutality.”
The US leader also condemned African leaders who refuse to give up power.
“Africa’s democratic progress is also at risk when leaders refuse to step aside when their terms end,” Obama said in a speech at the AU’s headquarters in the Ethiopian capital.
“No one should be president for life,” Obama said, adding that he himself was looking forward to handing over to his successor.
“I have to be honest with you: I just don’t understand this. Under our constitution, I cannot run again.
“There’s still so much I want to get done to keep America moving forward. But the law is the law and no one is above it, not even presidents,” he said.
“And, frankly, I’m looking forward to life after being president.
“It will mean more time with my family, new ways to serve, and more visits to Africa.” — AFP/HR.