As expected, U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech to Africa in Accra had plenty to say on the importance of good governance – but there was also a very strong message that his ‘new moment of promise’ is one that Africans have to seize for themselves.
‘You have the power to hold your leaders accountable, and to build institutions that serve the people. You can serve in your communities, and harness your energy and education to create new wealth and build new connections to the world. You can conquer disease, end conflicts, and make change from the bottom up. You can do that. Yes you can. Because in this moment, history is on the move,’ Obama said.
‘Freedom is your inheritance. Now, it is your responsibility to build upon freedom’s foundation. And if you do, we will look back years from now to places like Accra and say that this was the time when the promise was realized — this was the moment when prosperity was forged; pain was overcome; and a new era of progress began. This can be the time when we witness the triumph of justice once more.’
As Obama put it: ‘Make no mistake: history is on the side of these brave Africans, and not with those who use coups or change constitutions to stay in power. Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.’
There was no doubt they were strong words from the son of a Kenyan immigrant, who through elections has become the leader of the world’s most powerful country. Obama’s background may also give his message a better chance of being heard than those of past American leaders lecturing Africa on what it needs to do.
But when all is said and done and Obama flies off to deal with more urgent U.S. priorities, will the message be heeded? Will Africa live up to that promise?
Posted by Matthew Tostevin, Saturday 11th July.