Marking the fiftieth anniversary of 17 sub saharan african countries’ independence, President Obama met with 115 young leaders from 46 sub-Saharan African nations yesterday at the White House. For this opening of the President’s Forum for Young African Leaders, a three-day event in which the delegates had the opportunity to share their insights and visions for the future of Africa, the emphasis was principally on deepening and broadening the american understanding of the trajectories of African societies, and to reflect on how african next generations are building their communities’ and their nations’ futures.
More importantly, the objective of this year’s conference was to examine how young African leaders see Africa’s future over the next half century and how they can help craft innovative solutions to regional challenges. Working with American counterparts and U.S. government officials, the young african delegates have shared their insights on key conference themes from youth empowerment, to good governance and economic opportunity.
“As part of our new development strategy, we’re emphasizing transparency, accountability and a strong civil society — the kinds of reform that can help unleash transformational change.”
“It will be up to you — young people full of talent and imagination — to build the Africa for the next 50 years,” the president said.
President Obama spoke for about 10 minutes from prepared remarks, but told the delegates that “I don’t want to do all the talking. I want to hear from you.”
“You are the heirs of the independence generation that we celebrate this year. Because of their sacrifice, you were born in independent African states,” President Obama said.
“Just as the achievements of the last 50 years inspire you, the work you do today will inspire Africans for generations,” the President told the delegates.
Asked about the disruptive power of corruption found in many African societies, President Obama told delegates that while the problem is not unique to Africa, good governance is at the center of economic development on the continent, and there has to be a clear sense of the rule of law for growth and opportunity to flourish. ”It is one reason”, he said, ”why the United States stresses the values of good governance to African leaders”.
A young woman asked what commitment President Obama could offer to the people of Somalia, a nation that has been torn apart by conflict for nearly two decades and struggles daily to maintain some degree of order. The president said that Somalia has the support of the American people, even through all it has suffered. “We desperately want Somalia to succeed,” he said.
”But extremists have made a home in Somalia”, the president said, ”because they believe it is a failed state. There is concern in Africa and in the region that continued instability there could have a destabilizing impact across the region, but the resolution of that strife will not happen soon”, he added.
When challenged on how much support the United States is offering Africans in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, which has posed a significant health challenge across the continent, President Obama said that funding has been increased during his administration, and that it is now included in a broader program attacking worldwide diseases. He underlined the fact that former President George W. Bush, during his administration, initiated the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which vastly improved health care support for Africans dealing with the highly infectious disease.
Here is the 55 minutes video of the town Hall meeting President Obama hold with young African Leaders at the White House.