WASHINGTON, DC —
The address delivered by U.S. President Barack Obama from the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Tuesday, struck a positive code with many who heard his message, addressing such issues as corruption, good governance, respect for human rights, equality and the dignity of all people, particularly women and girls.
“When African girls are subjected to the mutilation of their bodies, or early or forced marriage, that sets us back, and it needs to end,” said Obama.
Obama praised the the continent's gains, from a plummeting HIV/AIDS-infection rate to millions of Africans being lifted out of poverty, while highlighting the U.S. role in boosting trade, improving food security and infrastructure. Without naming China -- a large investor in the continent -- Mr. Obama emphasized what he said sets the U.S. apart in its investment in Africa.
“Of course, the United States isn’t the only country that sees your growth as an opportunity. This is a good thing,” said Obama, but stressed that, “economic relationships cannot simply be about other countries building infrastructure with foreign labor or extracting Africa’s natural resources. Real economic partnerships have to be a good deal for Africa—they have to create jobs and capacity for Africans. That’s the kind of partnership America offers.”
In his farewell speech capping a historic trip to Kenya and Ethiopia, President Obama hailed Africa's extraordinary progress, while noting that such progress can only be sustained through continued development and democracy for all.
President Obama drew loud applause with he touched on democracy and term limits, saying he didn't understand why many leaders do not want to leave office after the expiration of their terms, specially, he mocked, when many have accumulated a lot of money.
Entrepreneur, Thule Lenneiye, who was among several Zimbabweans invited to the global economic summit that President Obama co-hosted in Kenya, said she was impressed by Mr. Obama’s challenge to Africa to step up its efforts in ensuring that women have healthcare and education.
“Africa is the beautiful, strong women these girls grow to become. The single best indicator of whether a nation will succeed is how it treats its women. When women have health care and education, families are stronger, communities are more prosperous and nations are more successful” Obama said.
Lenneiye said she was also touched by president obama’s pledge to continue supporting young girls affected by hiv/aids in 10 countries including zimbabwe. President Obama said the U.S. is working to help scale down the spread of HIV on the continent.
“ When more than 80 percent of new HIV cases in the hardest hit countries are teenage girls, that’s a tragedy and it sets us back. So America is beginning a partnership with ten African countries—Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe—to keep teenage girls safe and AIDS-free.”
In his speech, the U.S. president also said his country would support women’s programs that focused on sexual abuse and domestic violence.
“If you want to empower women, America will be your partner. Let’s work together to stop sexual assault and domestic violence. Let’s make clear that we will not tolerate rape as weapon of war—it is a crime and those who commit it must be punished,” said President Obama said to a loud applause.
To stop violence against women, President Obama called for more support of women to become lawyers and advocates.
“Let’s lift up the next generation of women leaders who can help fight injustice and forge peace and start new businesses and create jobs—and probably hire some men, too. We’ll all be better off when women have equal futures,” he said.
Lenneiye said she hoped African leaders, including President Robert Mugabe, who did not the event, though his is the chair of the African Union, will heed mr. obama’s remarks on women, education and related issues.