Cape Town - US President Barack Obama called on young Africans to rise
to the challenge of shoring up progress on the continent that rests on a
"fragile foundation", summoning them to fulfill the legacy of South
Africa's beloved former leader Nelson Mandela.
In his own effort to
carve out a piece of that legacy, Obama announced a new US-led
initiative to double access to electric power across Africa, vowing to
help bring "light where there is currently darkness".
Mandela showed us that one man's courage can move the world," Obama said
during an evening speech on Sunday at the University of Cape Town.
remarks capped an emotional day that included a visit to the Robben
Island prison where Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison. The
94-year-old anti-apartheid hero has been in hospital for most of this
month and is said to be in critical condition.
In deeply personal
remarks, the US president spoke of standing in Mandela's cramped prison
cell with his two young daughters, Malia and Sasha.
stand within the walls that once surrounded Nelson Mandela, I knew this
was an experience they would never forget," he said.
they now appreciated a little bit more that Madiba and other had made
for freedom," Obama added, referring to Mandela by his clan name.
'Ripple of hope'
address came nearly 50 years after Robert F Kennedy delivered his
famous "Ripple of Hope" speech at the same university, an address that
Obama aides said helped inspire the president's remarks.
speech, delivered soon after Mandela was sentenced to prison, called on
young people to launch a fight against injustice, creating ripples of
hope that would "build a current which can sweep down the mightiest
walls of oppression and resistance".
Laying out his own vision for
development on the continent where his father was born, Obama said the
US seeks "a partnership that empowers Africans to access greater
opportunity in their own lives".
He dismissed the notion that the
US sought to meddle in Africa's affairs, saying his country would
benefit from the continent's ability to manage its own affairs -
economically, politically and militarily.
"Ultimately I believe Africans should make up their own minds about what serves African interests," he said.
trust your judgment, the judgment of ordinary people. We believe that
when you control your destiny - if you got a handle on your governments -
then governments will promote freedom and opportunity, because that
will serve you."
The White House says Obama's electricity
initiative, dubbed "Power Africa," symbolises the type of
cross-continent ventures the president seeks.
Backed by $7bn
in US investment, the power programme will focus on expanding access to
electricity in six African countries: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia,
Nigeria and Tanzania.
Private companies - including General Electric and Symbion Power - will make an additional $9bn in commitments.
those contributions fall well short of the $300bn the International
Energy Agency says would be required to achieve universal electricity
access in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030.
The funds are aimed at expanding the reach of power grids and developing geothermal, hydro, wind and solar power.