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President Obama to Meet African Leaders at the United Nations

By James Butty
22 September 2009

U.S. President Barack Obama will hold a working luncheon with presidents and prime ministers from Sub-Saharan African Tuesday in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice has been quoted as saying the meeting will focus on how to build a 21st century partnership that will lead to economic and social development for the people of Africa.

Kenyan-born Calestous Juma, professor of the Practice of International Development at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Boston said President Obama will mostly likely repeat the same issues he raised during his speech to the Ghanaian parliament this past July.

"I think the president will most likely re-emphasize the message that he conveyed to Africa during his visit to Ghana which was essentially providing them with the signal that they need to take greater responsibility and be in charge of the internal affairs," he said.

Juma said President Obama will also most likely reiterate the importance of good governance in Africa and the fight against corruption.

"He was really talking about the issue of corruption, the fact that if you have a corrupt system where you don't have predictably a legal framework in the country, you really cannot run a private enterprise…and that has been missing in large parts of Africa," Juma said.

He said in addition to building legal infrastructure for good governance, Africa also needs to build its physical infrastructure such as roads, railways and communications.

"You cannot govern a country if you cannot move the police around. Take the Democratic Republic of Congo as an example which is the size of Western Europe. But it has a paved road network which is equivalent to that of Qatar or Virgin Island. You have little change of governing a country like that," he said.

Juma said an increasing number of African countries are attracted to China because of Beijing's interest in providing support for the continent's infrastructure development.

He said Tuesday's meeting should not be overshadowed by the fact that some of Africa's controversial leaders like Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe might be in attendance.

"I think the events of Zimbabwe have been very dramatic and they portray the continent negatively. But we should take into account that this is not the norm in Africa in that there are many other countries that have been very successful in democratic transition, Ghana being an example," Juma said.

He said there are indications President Obama would like to see investment in peace in Africa because nothing concrete can be done on the continent without peace and stability.

Juman said African leaders should think seriously about the opportunity created by the creation of the Africa Military Command.

But he said securing Africa would have to go beyond military intervention alone. He said African leaders must build educational institutions to train their manpower.

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