President Barack Obama warned Africans against the United States, even while he was pledging $7 billion in aid for the electrification of the continent. Speaking on June 30 in Johannesburg, South Africa, the chief executive said to listeners, “You will always find the extended hand of a friend in the United States of America.” On his three nation tour, which has cost approximately $100 million, Obama warned African not to trust the United States or other foreign powers who say they have come to help.
“When we look at what other countries are doing in Africa, I think our only advice is make sure it’s a good deal for Africa,” Obama told reporters. “If somebody says they want to come build something here, are they hiring African workers? If somebody says that they want to help you develop your natural resources, how much of the money is staying in Africa? … Don’t just assume that folks come here and they’re automatically benefiting Africans. And that includes the United States. Ask questions in terms of what we do.”
Speaking to the aid being promised to Africa, Obama said in a speech at the University of Capetown, “I’m calling for America to up our game when it comes to Africa,” adding, “We want to unleash the power of entrepreneurship and markets to create opportunity here in Africa.”
Dubbed ‘Power Africa,’ the billions of dollars in funds for electrification would be distributed over the next five years to Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Tanzania. Obama said, apparently referring to economic and development inroad made on the continent by China and India, “When we look at what other countries are doing in Africa, I think our only advice is make sure it’s a good deal for Africa.”
“If somebody says they want to come build something here, are they hiring African workers? If somebody says that they want to help you develop your natural resources, how much of the money is staying in Africa? … Don’t just assume that folks come here and they’re automatically benefiting Africans. And that includes the United States. Ask questions in terms of what we do.”
While visiting South Africa, Obama was not able to meet his ailing hero, Nelson Mandela, who is hospitalized. Recalling his days as a student activist and community organizer, Obama recalled that as teenage student at Occidental College in California he gave a speech to encourage disinvestment from the apartheid regime. “My own government in the United States was not standing on their side,” Obama said. “That’s why I got involved in what was known as the divestment movement in the United States. It was the first time I ever attached myself to a cause.”
Making his appeal to modern South Africans, Obama again made use of his personal narrative. “I know now that something inside me was stirring at that time, something important,” he said. “And that was the belief that I could be part of something bigger than myself, that my own salvation was bound up with those of others.”
The personal narrative continued as Obama took the presidential helicopter from the mainland to Robben Island. While Obama was not able to visit Mandela, he did visit the island prison there that once held the hero of South Africa for 27 years. In the company of Michelle Obama and daughters, Obama wrote in the prison’s logbook,“On behalf of our family we’re deeply humbled to stand where men of such courage faced down injustice and refused to yield. The world is grateful for the heroes of Robben Island, who remind us that no shackles or cells can match the strength of the human spirit. Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, 30 June 2013.”
After visiting Senegal and South Africa, Obama goes to Tanzania on July 1.
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