Washington (AFP) – US President Barack Obama warned Monday that the future stability of the world depends on African nations achieving prosperity and self-reliance, in an address to youth leaders from the continent.
"The security and prosperity and justice that we seek in the world cannot be achieved without a strong and prosperous and self-reliant Africa," he said, kicking off a major African diplomatic push.
"Next week I'll host a truly historic event, the US-Africa Leaders Summit," he said. "It will be the largest gathering any American president has hosted with African heads of state and government."
Next week's meeting will bring around 50 African leaders to Washington — almost all of them, with the exception of pariah figures like Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and Sudan's Omar al-Bashir.
Obama, born in the United States to a Kenyan father and American mother, is the first US president of part African descent, but has sometimes been accused of neglecting relations with the continent.
He announced plans for the major summit in June last year during his first major tour of African countries — South Africa, Senegal and Tunisia.
"And the summit reflects a principle that has guided my approach to Africa ever since I became president, that the security and prosperity and justice that we seek in the world cannot be achieved without a strong and prosperous and self-reliant Africa," he said.
"And even as we deal with crises and challenges in other parts of the world that often dominate our headlines, even as we acknowledge the real hardships that so many Africans face every day, we have to make sure that we're seizing the extraordinary potential of today's Africa, which is the youngest and fastest growing of the continents."
Asked by one of the 500 young people in the US capital as part of the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders what Africa can do for itself, Obama underlined the importance of the "rule of law, of respect for civil rights and human rights."
"Regardless of the resources a country possesses, if you don't have a basic system of rule of law, of respect for civil rights and human rights, if you don't respect basic freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, if you don't have those basic mechanisms, it is very rare for a country to succeed over the long term," he said.