President Obama hails Africa’s development in a historic visit to the African Union Headquarters
Addis Ababa, 28 July 2015
"Although we welcome you as the President of the United States of America, we also claim you as our own”. With those words, H.E Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, welcomed the US President H.E. Barack Hussein Obama to the AU Headquarters, today Tuesday 28th July 2015. The visit is the first by a sitting USA president to the African Union.
AUC Chairperson noted the strong and historic bond of Africa and the USA, which forged with the blood and sweat of African sons and daughters captured and forced across the Atlantic Ocean, toiling on the plantations and cities that made the United States into the great country it is.
The Chairperson also warmly welcomed the Congressional delegation, recalling their bipartisan unwavering support, and the support of ordinary Americans, to the African struggle against colonialism and apartheid.
She further highlighted that this visit comes at a time when the African continent has adopted a framework for its development for the coming fifty years, Agenda 2063, the Africa we want. “Africa is a youthful continent and likely to remain so over the next few decades. By the end of this century, one in three of the world’s population will be African. Over half of its population is women. Our people therefore remain our most precious resource” she added.
AUC Chairperson said the continent is in a unique position to chart its development and industrialization path that is different, through renewable energy and climate-smart agriculture, highlighting its endeavors in technology, infrastructure, and Launching of negotiations for the Continental Free Trade Area, to enhance intra-Africa and global trade and investments and others
However, despite progress, AUC acknowledged the challenges that Africa facing, include terrorism and corruption. “We are as concerned as you are with the global threats of terrorism and extremism and Africa is playing its part in the fight against Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram. South Sudan and Libya area also major challenges, and we hope that the IGAD process will bear fruits by the next scheduled meeting. We must all work to build greater tolerance for religious, cultural and political diversity, and build inclusive societies” she added.
Corruption as a global phenomenon is of great concern to us. Contrary to popular perceptions of corruption in Africa, the report of the Panel chaired by former President Thabo Mbeki on the Illicit Financial Flows from the continent (amounting to over 50 billion US dollars per year) shows, that over 60% of these outflows are as a result of the activities of large commercial companies, with criminal activity accounting for a further a 30% and political corruption less than 10%. We must therefore tackle this issue head-on, based on accurate diagnosis of where the problem lies, and through collective action” Dr. Zuma said.
The Chairperson also called for investing in women, saying women’s empowerment is not only a human rights issue, but also makes economic sense, and is a guarantee for sustainable peace, community stability and cohesion. She further pointed out women’ contribution to the prosperity of families and communities, especially since women on average contribute 70% of their income to the household, whilst men on average only contribute 30% of their incomes towards households and communities. “It is critical to shared prosperity and to Africa becoming a prosperous, integrated, peaceful, people-centered continent, playing a dynamic role in the world” she concluded.
In his farewell speech, following a historic trip to Kenya and Ethiopia, U.S. President Barack Obama hailed Africa's extraordinary progress, while noting that such progress can only be sustained through continued progress and democracy for all. It was the first speech to the AU by a sitting USA president.
“I stand before you as a proud American. I also stand before you as the son of an African” said President Obama during his address to the African Union. He summarized his personal interest in seeing Africa’s continued economic and developmental growth as it sheds a history of colonialism. Obama hailed the continent’s gains, from a plummeting HIV/AIDS infections rate to millions of Africans being lifted out of poverty, while championing the U.S. role in such gains.
President Obama also stressed the need for strong functional institutions and reforms in trade and industry to help the continent generate more jobs, boosted by its imminent population boom that could help foster employment opportunities.
Urging Africa's leaders to make their countries more attractive to foreign investment, the US President also called for ending corruption, upholding democratic freedoms, supporting human rights, and observing proper mediums of power transfer, as it is the African people who can best liberate themselves from the wide spread political, social and moral vices that have scared the continent. He further urged the African Union to spearhead all development agendas and lead by example.
He called on the AU to use its authority to help make sure African leaders stick to their term limits and follow their constitutions. "Nobody should be president for life," said Obama, who leaves office in January 2017.
US President also stressed that peace and security is very pertinent in Africa's progress, as it creates increased level of investment potential in the continent, pledging continuous U.S support and collaboration in the fight against terrorism.
President Obama’s visit to the AU Headquarter marks the end of a five-day tour to Africa that included an earlier stop in Kenya where he participated in the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi.
African Union Commission