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Obama's speech earn him positive reviews in Ghana

(Credit: Politirazzi)

By Phillip Molnar

Special to amNewYork

President Barack Obama’s pledge over the weekend to assist those African countries committed to democracy won him praise from Ghanaians who spent months preparing for the visit.

“It’s history for Africa,” said 32-year-old soccer recruiter Joojo Armah, of Accra, the capital of Ghana where Obama spoke. “Everyone is trying to see the first black [American] president.”

The president on Saturday also encouraged eco-friendly energy solutions, strong health care systems and peaceful resolutions to conflict.

“Africa’s future is up to Africa,” said Obama, who commended the strength of Ghana’s democracy, saying they “help point the way forward” for the rest of Africa. The West African country declared its independence 52 years ago and, despite a series of military coups, has peacefully transferred power three times.

The president announced $63 million to fund a new global health care initiative to fight, among others, HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and polio, but stressed caution in extending “America’s helping hand” unless African countries can meet his four requirements.Obama asked the African youth — nearly 40 percent of Ghana is under 14 years of age — to change their continent. “The world will be what you make it,” he said.

Throughout Ghana, people gathered around TV sets and listened to radios to hear Obama. Reaction to his speech was positive.

“What Obama said makes sense to Africans,” said Godwin Omebo, 32, of Accra. “I hope Obama says that to every [African] head of state.”

Ombeo, who works at a radio station in the capital, said Obama visiting is a “great opportunity” for his country. “I think Ghana will be one of the top countries in five years.”

Francis Fia, 44, a building contractor in north Accra, said the speech was in his top five of all time. “[Obama] showed his desire to help,” he said. “It was great.”

Obama said Ghana “shows a face that the West doesn’t often see” and that Africa is not just “the crude characteristic of a continent at perpetual war.”

Ghanaians have been preparing for Obama for months: street vendors have been selling Obama shirts and football jerseys, a local musician named Blakk Rasta created an Obama song that is regularly played on radios across Ghana, and large billboards with a picture of Ghanaian President John Atta Mills and Obama, that read “Partnership for Change,” dominated Accra’s landscape.

Ghanaians walked away from the speech hopeful for a new relationship, especially the youth he directed to lead the charge. “Obama has warmed the ties between [our] countries,” said 19-year-old student Jasmine Mkiumah. “I hope there are more visitors.”

Ghanaians cheer on President Barack Obama during his visit Saturday to the West African country. (Photos: AP)

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