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Obama Asks African Countries To Create Jobs, Foster Democracy

President Obama delivers a speech to the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Tuesday.
Evan Vucci
President Obama delivers a speech to the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Tuesday.

President Obama capped a five-day trip to Kenya and Ethiopia by becoming the first sitting American president to address the African Union.

In a speech intended for the entire continent and delivered from the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Obama called on African leaders to create jobs and foster democracy. NPR's Gregory Warner reports that Obama spoke of Africa's bright future and called on leaders to end corruption and political intimidation.

Gregory filed this report:

"The president said that he'd worked to change America's relationship with Africa. Instead of just shipping food aid, he said, the American government had helped more than 2 million farmers increase their yields.

"But the biggest applause was reserved for his criticism of presidents going past their term limits, like the third-term election of the president of Burundi.

" 'I have to also say that Africa's democratic progress is also at risk when leaders refuse to step aside when their terms end,' Obama said. 'Now, let me be honest with you — I do not understand this. I am in my second term. It has been an extraordinary privilege for me to serve as president of the United States. I cannot imagine a greater honor or a more interesting job. I love my work. But under our Constitution, I cannot run again. I can't run again. I actually think I'm a pretty good president — I think if I ran, I could win. But I can't.'

"Obama added: 'The point is, I don't understand why people want to stay so long. Especially when they've got a lot of money.'

"Obama praised Nelson Mandela, and George Washington for setting an example of handing over power.

" 'I'm looking forward to life after being president,' Obama said. He said it would mean more time with his family. And more chances to visit Africa."

Of course, Obama's speech has a special significance. He opened with a nod to it, saying, "I stand before you as a proud American. I also stand before you as the son of an African."

Obama's father, as you know, was born in Kenya and when Obama arrived there a few days ago he was greeted by his half-sister. The trip to Kenya was his first official visit as president. Here's the part of the speech where Obama got personal:

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is an international correspondent for NPR. He was named NPR's Mexico City correspondent in 2022. Before that, he was based in Cape Town, South Africa.
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