Previewing Ghana

On Saturday the President gives a major speech in Ghana, setting the tone for his policy towards Africa over the coming years. Last week the President previewed the vision he will lay out in an interview with AllAfrica.com. The President made clear that he is a student of African history, that he is well aware of the legacy of colonialism and the lingering impacts it had, but at the same time called himself "a big believer that Africans are responsible for Africa." Asked why Ghana was chosen as a location, he cited the successful transfer of power after even a close election to President Mills, who he said "has shown himself committed to the rule of law, to the kinds of democratic commitments that ensure stability in a country." Asked if would "like to see a lot more Ghanas in Africa," he replied "Absolutely."  Watch Part I below, or Part II here.

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[Read the transcript.]


 

As with the President’s speech in Cairo, the White House will be doing everything it can to make the President’s message as accessible as possible to the people of the region. We have a media resources page that will be updated as the President’s trip continues and has all of the details available now, but there is an extensive text message program for those living in Africa, as well as a Facebook event page and a Twitter hashtag:  #obamaghana. Tangentially, the President was asked about how aid, investment, and technology intersect in Africa during the interview:
Q    Development assistance will presumably be an important piece of your Africa policy.  Now, development assistance is pretty fragmented whether you look at the United States or you look at it globally in the sense of varying countries have varying approaches.  And now you, more than any President, are associated with using technological tools, and I can't help but wonder if you have in mind or have thought about using technology to bring some coherence, if you will, like tracking how aid works or goes and where it goes, et cetera.
THE PRESIDENT:  Look, I think you make a very important point and that is that even just within the U.S. government, our aid policies have been splintered among a variety of agencies, different theories embraced by different people depending on which administration, which party is in power at any given time.  Trying to create something steady and focused on -- and always basing our policies on what works and not on some ideological previous position is going to be very important.
And technology can play a very important role in streamlining our aid to countries, making sure that we're tracking how that aid is being applied, making sure that it's reaching the people it's intended to reach.  One of the concerns that I have with our aid policy generally is that western consultants and administrative costs end up gobbling huge percentages of our aid overall.  And it seems to me that what we should be doing is trying to minimize our footprint and maximize the degree to which we're training people to do for themselves.  So I think using the Internet, using software, using modern technology, to improve delivery systems is important.
Now, I also think on the ground in many of these countries, how we think about not high-tech stuff but low-tech technologies to, for example, improve food production is vitally important.  And I'm still frustrated over the fact that the green revolution that we introduced into India in the '60s, we haven't yet introduced into Africa in 2009.  In some countries, you've got declining agricultural productivity.  That makes absolutely no sense.  And we don't need fancy computers to solve those problems; we need tried and true agricultural methods and technologies that are cheap and are efficient, but could have a huge impact in terms of people's day-to-day well-being.
The President gives an interview to AllAfrica.com
(President Barack Obama gives an interview to AllAfrica.com in advance of a major speech in Ghana on Thursday, July 2, 2009.  Official White House Photo, Pete Souza)

 

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