Democracy In Africa Means Fighting Corruption

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And so there's nothing wrong with the developed nations insisting that we will increase our commitments, that we will design our aid programs more effectively, that we will open up our markets to trade from poor countries, but that we will also insist that there is good governance and rule of law, and other critical factors in order to make these countries work.

[Globe: Africa]

By Barack Obama

One of the things that we should be very proud of from the G20 summit yesterday was that we made a significant commitment to additional resources through the IMF and other mechanisms to provide assistance to emerging markets and poor countries that, as I said, are bearing the burden of a collapse in the financial system that they had nothing to do with.

The problem is so many of these countries had export-oriented markets, and when the economies contracted in our developing nations, it made them extremely vulnerable.

You know, you have a country like Botswana, which is actually a well-managed country that has made enormous progress, but their main revenue generator is diamond sales, and they have literally seen the diamond market collapse -- in part because they couldn't get trade financing, in part because the demand in developed countries has dropped off.

So we started to make progress there. Our most important task right now is helping them get through this crisis.

Over the long term, though, we've got to have a strategy that recognizes that the interest of the developed world in feeding the hungry, in educating children, that that's not just charity; it's in our interest.

There's not a direct correlation between poverty and violence and conflict and terrorism. But I can tell you that if children have no education whatsoever, if young men are standing idle each and every day, and feel completely detached and completely removed from the modern world, they are more likely, they are more susceptible to ideologies that appeal to violence and destruction.

If you have no health facilities whatsoever in countries in Africa, these days a pandemic can get on a plane and be in Strasbourg or New York City or Chicago overnight. So we better think about making sure that there are basic public health facilities and public health infrastructure in those countries, because we can't shield ourselves from these problems. So that means developed countries have to increase aid, but it also means that the countries who are receiving aid have to use it wisely.

My father was from Kenya. And when I traveled to Kenya -- I had just been elected to the United States Senate -- everybody was very excited and they greeted me as if I was already a head of state, and there were people waving and lining the streets.

I went to speak at a university and I had to be honest, which was, America has an obligation to provide Kenya help on a whole range of issues, but if Kenya doesn't solve its own corruption problem, then Kenya will never grow. It will never be able to provide for its own.

And so there's nothing wrong with the developed nations insisting that we will increase our commitments, that we will design our aid programs more effectively, that we will open up our markets to trade from poor countries, but that we will also insist that there is good governance and rule of law, and other critical factors in order to make these countries work.

We spend so much time talking about democracy -- and obviously we should be promoting democracy everywhere we can. But democracy, a well-functioning society that promotes liberty and equality and fraternity, a well-functioning society does not just depend on going to the ballot box.

It also means that you're not going to be shaken down by police because the police aren't getting properly paid. It also means that if you want to start a business, you don't have to pay a bribe. I mean, there are a whole host of other factors that people need to -- need to recognize in building a civil society that allows a country to be successful. And hopefully that will -- that approach will be reflected not just in my administration's policies but in the policies that are pursued by international agencies around the world.


Obama is president of the United States.

The article is based on his answers to a question while in France on April 3.

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