Obama tells African leaders to take responsibility for economic failures

President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama said African leaders should take responsibility for a lack of economic progress, adding that “excuses” about neo-colonialism had hindered progress on the world’s poorest continent.

The U.S. and Western nations can’t be blamed for “disastrous policies” in some African countries or for the economic collapse in Zimbabwe in the past 15 to 20 years, Obama said in a July 2 interview with AllAfrica.com, released by the White House today.

Obama, whose father was from Kenya, will visit Ghana on July 10 in his first official trip to a country in Sub-Saharan Africa. More African leaders should commit to democracy and respect for the rule of law as a way of boosting investment in the continent, Obama said, citing Ghana as a good example. Per- capita income in Sub-Saharan Africa is $951, compared with $5,801 in Latin America, according to the World Bank.

“I think what’s hampered advancement in Africa is that for many years we’ve made excuses about corruption or poor governance,” Obama said. “That this was somehow the consequence of neo-colonialism, or the West has been oppressive, or racism. I’m not a believer in excuses.”

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled since 1980, blames U.S. and European Union sanctions for his country’s economic collapse. The southern African nation’s economy has been in recession for a decade and 94 percent of the population has no formal employment, according to the United Nations.

“It’s very important for African leadership to take responsibility and be held accountable,” Obama said.


The president said that while there has been progress toward democracy and good governance in Africa, there have also been incidents of “backsliding,” such as in Kenya. President Mwai Kibaki formed a unity government last year with Prime Minister Raila Odinga, then an opposition leader, after a disputed election in December 2007 resulted in ethnic clashes that killed about 1,500 people. Odinga has complained that the power-sharing agreement isn’t being fully implemented.

“I’m concerned about how the political parties do not seem to be moving into a permanent reconciliation that would allow the country to move forward,” Obama said.

Source: Bloomberg

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