United States President Barack Obama has had high praise for Ghana’s economic transformation and democratic credentials, pointing out that while it is important and right to focus on Africa’s challenges, it is equally important focus on the good news.
“There are sometimes -- there's sometimes a tendency to focus on the challenges that exist in Africa -- and rightfully so. But I think it’s important for us to also focus on the good news that’s coming out of Africa, and I think Ghana continues to be a good-news story,” Obama said after a meeting with President John Evans Atta Mills at the White House.
President Mills is guest of Obama in a reciprocal gesture after the US President chose Ghana for his first visit to the continent in 2009 following his historic election.
In statements posted to the White House website, the two presidents engaged in a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office discussing issues of mutual concern that also took in their re-election bids this year amidst assurances that notwithstanding their fate at the polls, they would take steps to ensure credible and transparent elections so the wishes of their respective peoples relative to leadership choices will be respected.
Said President Obama of Ghana; “This is a country that has established a strong tradition of democracy, and President Mills and I were comparing notes -- we’re both up for reelection -- but what we agreed to is the fact that regardless of who wins and who loses, our countries' commitment to making sure that the people have a voice and determine who it is that represents them in their government is what gives both our countries such strength.
“And Ghana has proven, I think, to be a model for Africa in terms of its democratic practices. And I very much appreciate the efforts that President Mills has taken not only to ensure fair and free elections, but also to root out corruption, increase transparency, make sure that government is working for the people of Ghana and not just for the few. So we’re very appreciative of those efforts.
“In addition, Ghana has become a wonderful success story economically on the continent. In part because of the initiatives of President Mills, you’ve seen high growth rates over the last several years. Food productivity and food security is up. There’s been strong foreign investment. That trade and investment benefits folks back home here in the United States as well.”
While expressing hope that the great level of cooperation between Ghana and the US will continue into the future, President Obama enumerated a number of activities he said aimed to create thousands of mutually beneficial jobs. They include funding under the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Feed the Future agriculture programme under which the US government is assisting with large scale farming, power generation and credit to small and medium-size businesses.
“Ghana has also been a leader, a responsible actor on the international stage, working in the region to help stabilize and reduce conflict there. They’ve been strong partners with us in the United Nations on a whole range of international issues. And as important, President Mills has consistently spoken out on behalf of human rights and making sure that everyone is treated fairly and not discriminated against inside of his country.”
He recalled with warmth the “extraordinary hospitality” that the Mills administration and the people of Ghana showed not only him, “but also Michelle and Sasha and Malia” while visiting Ghana and said he looked forward to another opportunity to visit Ghana once again.
On his part President Mills said Ghana and the United States share the same values of democracy which the people have come to accept as the only way.
“And democracy goes with development. And if you come to Africa, our people are yearning for only one thing -- improvement in their daily lives. And there can be no development without peace, which means that we should do the things which will ensure that there is peace and that there’s no room for conflict.
“The United States has been a model, and I’m happy that we are cooperating with one another on all kinds of fronts and they are yielding results. And I was telling Mr. President that when one of the roads was commissioned, and it was built with money provided by the MCC under our first compact, you should have seen the joy on the faces of the Ghanaians because there had been a radical transformation in their lives. I mean that is what governance is all about -- to see people happy because they now have what they did not have.”
He reiterated the challenge of elections in December, saying “we are going to ensure that there is peace before, during, after the election, because when there is no peace, it’s not the elitists who will suffer, it’s the ordinary people who have elected us into office.
“So we have a big challenge, and we know that some of our friends in Africa are looking up to us, and we dare not fail them. I have no doubt at all that we have embarked on a useful journey, and we’ll get to the very end. I told you that both of us are facing elections, but our ships will be able to sail safely to their final destination, I want to assure you.
“So thanks a lot for the wonderful reception. We will go back with happy memories. And of course, this will also reassure our people that the kind of cooperation we started -- from our first President -- is growing from strength to strength.”