The Next Steps For Africa To Meet Its Potential – The Washington Post

The United States, of course, enjoys a special place in the imaginations of Africans something that was reinforced by the election of President Obama. Young people continue, as I did when I came to study here many years ago, to look to the United States for inspiration, viewing this country as a place of economic opportunity built on a platform of democracy, human rights and religious tolerance. Americas achievements resonate across all of Africa, where people also seek ways to improve life for their families. They aspire to choose and reject their leaders at the ballot box, to create courts that deliver impartial justice, to speak their minds without fear and to enjoy a free press that helps hold governments to account. But for many of them, these goals remain out of reach. Beyond the continent, a peaceful and economically strong Africa can be a major part of the solution to many of the worlds great challenges. It can help drive global growth, reduce poverty and inequality, improve health and counter the threats of terrorism and climate change. So what can the United States do to help Africa to achieve this potential? First, it is important that the cultivation of stronger links with African countries not become a reason to downplay democracy and human rights. The United States must, of course, work with todays African leaders, but ignoring political reality is not in the interests of Africa or America. After two decades of democratic progress, there are worrying signs of backsliding from leaders reluctant to step down or genuinely test their popularity at the polls. In the long run, Africans will remember who supported their democratic aspirations. The United States should throw its weight behind the continents own efforts to improve standards, such as through the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance .
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