On Life, love and Politics

"Random musings about Life, love and Politics. Just my open diary on the events going on in the world as I see it."

President Barack Obama’s remarks on Africa at Press Conference in l’Aquila Italy at end of G8 Meeting July 11, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — kikenileda @ 9:26 AM

Courtesy of www.whitehouse. gov
Mr. President, we were told that you made your appeal for the food security money during the meetings personal by citing your family experience in Kenya,
your cousin and so forth.  I wonder if you could relate to us a little
bit of what you said then, and talk about what — your family
experience, how that influences your policies and approach. 

What you heard is true, and I started with this fairly telling point
that when my father traveled to the United States from Kenya to study, at that time the per capita income and Gross Domestic Product of Kenya was higher than South Korea's.  Today obviously South Korea is a highly developed and relatively wealthy country, and Kenya is still struggling with deep poverty in much of the country. 

And the question I
asked in the meeting was, why is that?  There had been some talk about
the legacies of colonialism and other policies by wealthier nations,
and without in any way diminishing that history, the point I made was
the South Korean government, working with the private sector
and civil society, was able to create a set of institutions that
provided transparency and accountability and efficiency that allowed
for extraordinary economic progress, and that there was no reason why
African countries could not do the same. 
And yet, in
many African countries, if you want to start a business or get a job
you still have to pay a bribe; that there remains too much — there
remains a lack of transparency.
And the point that I was trying to
underscore is, is that as we think about this issue of food security,
which is of tremendous importance — I mean, we've got 100 million
people who dropped into further dire poverty as a consequence of this
recession; we estimate that a billion people are hungry around the
globe.  And so wealthier nations have a moral obligation as well as a national security interest in providing assistance.  And we've got to meet those responsibilities.
The flip side is, is that countries in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere in the world that are suffering from extreme poverty
have an obligation to use the assistance that's available in a way that
is transparent, accountable, and that builds on rule of law and other
institutional reforms that will allow long-term improvement.
There is no reason why Africa cannot be self-sufficient when it comes to food.  It has sufficient arable land
What's lacking is the right seeds, the right irrigation, but also the
kinds of institutional mechanisms that ensure that a farmer is going to
be able to grow crops, get them to market, get a fair price.
And so all these things have to be part of a comprehensive plan, and
that's what I was trying to underscore during the meeting today.
Q And your own family, sir?
THE PRESIDENT:  What's that?
Q Your own family?
Well, the point I was making is — my father traveled to the United
States a mere 50 years ago and yet now I have family members who live
in villages — they themselves are not going hungry, but live in
villages where hunger is real.  And so this is something that I
understand in very personal terms, and if you talk to people on the
ground in Africa, certainly in Kenya, they will say that part
of the issue here is the institutions aren't working for ordinary
people.  And so governance is a vital concern that has to be addressed.
Now keep in mind — I want to
be very careful — Africa is a continent, not a country, and so you
can't extrapolate from the experience of one country.  And there are a
lot of good things happening.  Part of the reason that we're
traveling to Ghana is because you've got there a functioning democracy,
a President who's serious about reducing corruption, and you've seen
significant economic growth. 

So I don't want to overly generalize it, but I do want to make the broader point that a
government that is stable, that is not engaging in tribal conflicts,
that can give people confidence and security that their work will be
rewarded, that is investing in its people and their skills and talents,
those countries can succeed, regardless of their history.


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