Obama responds to Africa’s SMS

Corruption is ailing African economies and is keeping off elite Africans out of the continent, US president Barrack Obama has decried.

Responding to three out of over 20,000 text messages from Africa during his tour in Ghana, Obama said his foreign policy is going to be emphasizing the importance of governance in Africa.

“I think we can make enormous progress. And I think you can see a reversal of the brain drain that’s been such a hampering effect on development in Africa,” said Obama to a question selected by Angela Quintal of Independent Newspapers, Pertoria, South Africa.

The question from Prince Samuel Nagana of Abuja Nigeria had sought to know Obama’s plan to encourage Africans that are doing well all over the world to return home and contribute to the growth of Africa .

“Unfortunately, so many young people feel that either economic opportunities are blocked or limited because of the fact that they may have to pay a bribe in order to get a job, they may see the government mismanaging the economy or being too heavy handed in it. If people feel that — rule of law exists,” he said.

“If people feel that once they get a good education they can start a business or they can advance economically without being well connected or other criteria that really have nothing to do with their skills and their abilities, then they’re going to be, I think, eager to seek those opportunities wherever they can find them…and I think you can see a reversal of the brain drain, he said.

A third question was selected by Peter Kimani, Asociate Editor of The Standard in Nairobi, Kenya. The query from Silvian Mabia Solusage (phonetic) of South Africa sought to know Obama’s plan to promote and implement trade between Africa and the USA beyond AGOA.

“I think that one of the principles that I want to bring to the U.S./Africa relationship is that economic development in Africa is not just going to be based on dribbles of foreign aid but rather is going to be based on how do we build capacity within Africa. Now, as I’ve said before, part of that is up to Africa, improving governance, improving respect for rule of law and property rights, all of which can encourage investment, encourage young people with talent to invest as entrepreneurs. That is going to make the biggest difference.

But changing our trade policies effectively is also going to be

important. So I want to find ways that we can further open up trade

relationships between the United States and African countries.

“We want to, wherever we can, provide the kinds of access to the U.S. global markets that can really make a difference. And to the extent that we can invest in mechanisms so that ordinary people, farmers, small business people can access these markets in a fair and free way, that’s the kind of infrastructure that we want to help countries build,” Obama promised.

Selected by Mamadou Chor (phonetic) of RTS, Dakar, Senegal the second question from Niger ‘Why Obama chose to visit Ghana.’

“Mr. President, you didn’t choose haphazardly to visit Ghana. This country is undoubtedly a good example and even a pride when we talk about democracy in Africa. Do you think democracy is a challenge Africans should take up or a behavior they should adopt?”

“I chose to go to Ghana in part because of the tremendous work they’ve done in developing a functioning democracy. President Mills was elected in a very close election. But both he as the victor and

his opponent behaved, in terms of transferring power, recognizing the elections, exactly how we want a democracy to operate, without violence, respecting the rule of law, respecting election results. And this is one of the great strengths of Ghana, because when you are able to see peaceful transitions of power, when people feel that their voices

are heard, then government works better, it has greater legitimacy, the private sector in civil society feels that it has a stake in making things work.

Obama said Ghana’s development, has shown itself to be superior to some countries that don’t have solid democratic institutions.
“It’s something that I think we’ve seen throughout Africa. Where you’ve got governments that work that aren’t based on ethnicity and tribe, but rather based on rule of law, then they’re better at fighting corruption, people have a greater commitment to making things work, and everybody prospers. So we hope that Ghana will continue to serve as an outstanding example of democracy in Africa. And we hope that that example is spread all across the continent.

Obama had asked people from all around Africa to submit questions about his administration’s priorities for USA policy in Africa. Hundreds of people submitted questions by text, on Twitter, by e-mail, on over other social networking sites.

A panel of African journalists based in Washington selected the three questions Obama responded to.
Over 5,000 messages were said to have been sent by Kenyans on Thursday.
The SMS was received on his behalf by members of the State Department in President Obama’s entourage to Ghana. Mtech, a company with branches in several African capitals, hosted the SMS service.

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