Monday, July 1, 2013

Obama addresses Cape Town

Obama in action.
© Shafiq Morton
US President Barack Obama speaks on the same podium at the University of Cape Town that Senator Bobby Kennedy did in 1966, when he visited South Africa at the height of apartheid, making a speech on human rights that enraged the then Nationalist government of Hendrik Verwoed.

Previously in the day Obama had spent time with Nobel prize winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and visited Robben Island, an experience he described as "humbling".
Former President Nelson Mandela, was an inspiration not only to South Africa, but to the world, he said. Mandela was the ultimate testament to the process of peaceful change.
 
He told the audience that the South African anti-apartheid divestment campaign is what whetted his appetite for a political career. He emphasised the role that the youth of Africa, with 60% of it under the age of 35, had to play in its exciting future.
 
On the policy front he said that the US in Africa was moving from aid to a "partnership of equals". Africa was the rising continent with some of the fastest growing economies, and people were noticing this.
 
US policy would be backed up by three over-riding principles: opportunity, democracy and peace, this underlined by a focus on energy, eradicating preventable diseases and clean government. Corrupt government, he said, eroded democratic values and continental development.
 
He elicited a  sustained round of applause when he said that there could only be progress (in Africa) if governments served the people, and not the other way round.
 
Announcing the New Trade Africa Initiative, President Obama revealed that 7 billion US dollars would be invested (together with 9 billion from the private sector) in doubling the energy capacity of sub-Saharan Africa. He told the audience that the US would be "unapologetic" in lending "muscle" to those who were victims in the continent.
 
Obama also announced that next year there would be a summit held in Washington for sub-Saharan leaders, and for youthful continental leadership as well.
 
President Obama concluded that if one wanted to see the difference between tyranny and oppression, South Africa was the place to see it. "If any country has shown how the power of human beings can change destiny, here's the one," he said.