Saturday, July 11, 2009

President Obama’s Africa speech

I returned from the gym around 11:30 to no electricity. About half of Kigali was dark from 10:30 AM until 6:45 PM. Luckily a friend from the Embassy called to see if I wanted to come and watch the speech with Rwandan News Media, Educators, and Government Representatives. There were about 35 attendees (I was one of four whites in the room) who applauded several times during the speech but it was the dialogue after the speech that I found most interesting.

Every person present gave him high marks and made comments based on their own professional viewpoint. They welcomed the partnership approach and the fact that aid will not be given to countries where officials get rich and corruption reigns…to a person they said that would allow more funds for Rwanda because it is the least corrupt country in Africa.

The media loved the free press comments, the government officials welcomed his thoughts on good governance and aid based on a sustainability model, but the educators did not think he spent enough time on its importance. They believed there could be no lasting peace, democracies or development if the people were illiterate. After those comments others began to point out some of the difficulties in carrying out the new policies and hope that the US officials responsible for implementation will be open to local solutions instead of the cookie cutter approach used in the past.

Since the power did not come back on until long after the speech, I had to wait to see how it was received across the world and watched the BBC and Al Jazeera. He received high marks from most of the talking heads but one in the UK said he “scolded” Africa but went to Russia to “discuss”; he felt his policies are flawed.

I feel the time is ripe for partnership and most of the African governments and people responded well to his remarks.


  1. Susan, This is my third time onto the blog and am now caught up again on the whole trip. It is so exciting to share in your adventure. You are growing and changing right before our eyes. It truly is the experience of your lifetime. I'm sure you are positively impacting everyone you meet. When you finally leave, you will certainly be missed. Continue your great efforts. I am very proud of your efforts. Best, Jeff

  2. Thanks Jeff and I know it will be the same for you. To have a concentrated time to learn from the people and culture is a real gift. I will return to Africa whenever I can. I know I am missing important times and changes at work but I try not to think about it and will do the best job I can when I return. Miss you, Susan