Thursday 16 Aug 2018 | 02:31 | SYDNEY
Thursday 16 Aug 2018 | 02:31 | SYDNEY

Obama holds fourth in Africa


Michael Fullilove


13 July 2009 17:40

Barack Obama gave a cracking speech overnight in Accra on the subject of Africa’s future. As The Wall Street Journal notes, it was the last in a series of four major international addresses Obama has given since being inaugurated, the others being his speech on nuclear issues in Prague, his finely balanced lecture on Islam and the West in Cairo (which I analysed in The Punch) and his slightly underwhelming speech on US-Russian relations in Moscow.

In Ghana, the president spoke plainly about the causes of Africa’s sorrows, criticising the brutality and corruption of some of the continent’s regimes. He acknowledged the legacy of colonialism but denied that this could be a continuing excuse for failure. He observed that his father’s birthplace, Kenya, had a per capita economy larger than South Korea’s when he was born, but has since been left behind in the economic dust.

Aides characterised Obama’s speech to The New York Times as ‘hard truths from a loving cousin’ and there is no question that, as the first African American president of the United States, his criticisms carry moral power that was not available to any of his predecessors.

The best thing about the speech was its toughness. Like most politicians, Obama enjoys delivering applause lines. I’m glad he didn’t just dwell on his biographical links to Africa, but rather deployed them to try to change Africans’ thinking and pressure errant African leaders.

Obama’s enduring international prestige is something to observe: in Cairo he left the stage to the sound of his largely Arab audience chanting ‘Obama! Obama!’; in Accra he entered the hall to the sound of Ghanaian legislators chanting ‘Yes we can! Yes we can!’ I bet Joe Nye is writing a new edition of his book, Soft Power.

Photo by Flickr user Chris Gansen, used under a Creative Commons license.