Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Look into President Obama's Historical Speech in Africa - The Good & The Bad

Last week’s speech by U.S. President Barack Obama is one I will forever use as a guide for my role in Ghana’s development and my stance on US-Africa relations. I will remember that Africa’s future is up to Africans. I will remember that development depends on good governance. I will remember the call to Africa’s youth. I will remember that Africa does not need strongmen, but strong institutions; institutions that serve the people. However, as I think about President Obama's speech, I question his mention on corruption in Africa.

President Obama condemned corrupt African officials, yet some of the financial institutions that host corrupt monies are based in the United States. He condemned African officials for skimming 20% off the top of foreign investments, yet it is that foreign entity that pays that 20%. And, why did President Obama discuss corruption when he was in Africa, but not when he was in Russia just days earlier? INDEM, a think tank that researches corruption, reports that 80% of all Russian businesses pay bribes and its corruption market amounts to $300 billion dollars, 20% of Russia's GDP. Corruption, indeed, is not just an African problem, it's a global problem - it's a human problem.

It will be sad that whenever I think of President Obama’s return to Africa I will think of his ridicule of corrupt African governments with no mention of other country's role in that same corruption. It begs the question of true partnership. If Africa is called not to be corrupt, the west should be called not to be a part of this very corruption. If Africa is called not to be corrupt, foreign investors should also be called not to be corrupt. For every call President Obama made to Africa, a call needed to be made to countries around the world. If Africa and a partnering foreign country are to live up to a true partnership, both must take responsibility – both need some of what the western media has termed as Obama’s “tough love.”