THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
July 1, 2009
ON THE PRESIDENT’S TRIP TO RUSSIA, ITALY, AND AFRICA BY DENIS McDONOUGH, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, MS. GAVIN: [After visiting Russia and G8 meetings in Italy] the President then will be moving on Accra, Ghana.]
And this is a bit unusual, in that typically Presidents, when they travel to Africa, do a number of African stops. And I think that President Obama certainly looks forward to traveling more widely in Africa in the future. But it's quite intentional and underscores the point that Africa is integrated broadly into foreign policy thinking. African voices are an important part of global discussions on key global issues, including many of those just discussed in the context of the G8. And so it makes sense to incorporate Africa in our foreign policy. And the President wanted to stop in Ghana particularly because he's interested in emphasizing themes of governance -- the importance of governance for making development progress, the importance of governance for stability. And Ghana is a truly admirable example of a place where governance is getting stronger, a thriving democracy. They just had an extraordinarily close election at the end of last year, decided ultimately by about 40,000 votes, that remained peaceful, power was transferred peacefully, and they continue to pursue a development agenda and bolster the rule of law. And this is worth pointing out, because far too often discussions of Africa are focused on crisis. Ghana is not in crisis, and it's an example for the region and more broadly.
So while he's there, the President will obviously meet with his counterpart, President Mills, and they'll have bilateral discussions about a number of important issues. It's a strong bilateral relationship, and not only will we discuss governance issues but Ghana's challenges as a new oil wealth is slated to come online within the next couple years, which always creates an interesting governance challenge; development priorities, including agricultural development. Ghana will be a focus of the food security initiative, and this will be a great opportunity to talk about how that's going to create new opportunities for young Ghanaians and young Africans when it's rolled out more broadly.
One of Ghana's key priorities is maternal health, trying to bring down their maternal mortality numbers. And the President will be doing some work on that, as well. And of course regional issues, again, relating to stability, governance, counter narcotics, which is an important issue in West Africa.
The President will then give a speech about some of the themes that I just articulated at the Ghanaian parliament, again, sort of sending the signal that this is a bolstering of an important institution of governance. But he'll also be talking a lot about how governance isn't just an agenda for political (inaudible) for elected officials, and it's not just an agenda for citizens when it's voting time. It's a constant process. And it involves civil society and local initiatives, and the message is about how the people of Ghana are driving their countries forward, and more broadly how Africans can be driving their country forward, and more broadly how Africans can be driving their countries forward, rather than a notion of donor countries in the driver's seat. And so then after the speech, the First Family will be off to the Cape Coast. Following that, they'll come back to the airport for a departure ceremony that will allow (inaudible) an opportunity to participate in the visit.
And that will be it...Certainly, a number of the things that they'll be discussing at the G8, and the reason there is African participation in the G8, as well, relate to economic resilience, capacity to weather a downturn and move forward, development agendas, global issues, including climate change -- and there's a recognition, broadly, that African voices are important in these debates.
One of the things the President wants to highlight is that Africa's capacity to address all of those issues pivots on sound governance. And in order to underscore the importance of that, he's stopping in an African example of extremely strong governance that deserves support and attention. So I think it makes a lot of sense, particularly in light of the fact that there have been some worrying trends in Africa recently. We've had, frankly, a number of coups: Mauritania, although that seems to be getting on the right track now; Madagascar; Guinea; a problematic election in Nigeria, in Kenya, in Zimbabwe; you have this third-term bid that's led to a rule by emergency decree in Niger. So it's important to talk about why this matters, and I don't think there's a lot of time to waste on that.