U.S. President Barack Obama delivered a historic address to the African Union on Tuesday as part of his five-day visit to Kenya and Ethiopia. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, July 28 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama addressed the African Union on Tuesday in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, speaking on topics ranging from education, business reform and ending the "cancer of corruption."
"I stand before you as a proud American and I also stand before you as a son of an African," Obama told the audience at the African Union's Nelson Mandela Hall. "Africa and its people helped to shape America and allowed it to become the nation that it is."
During the address, Obama said he has worked to transform the relationship between the United States and Africa, working together as "equal partners."
"50 years ago in a great burst of self-determination, Africans rejoiced as foreign flags came down and your national flags went up," Obama said.
The rise of Africa is "important for the entire world," Obama continued, adding that the world will need the voices of the one billion Africans to overcome future challenges.
Most U.S. trade with Africa is directed to Nigeria, South Africa and Angola, mostly dealing with gas and oil. Africans, according to Obama, need to do more business not just with the United States but within the continent.
"Nothing will unlock Africa's economic potential more than ending the cancer of corruption" as it drains billions of dollars from economies that are not able to afford it, Obama said, also stating that bribery is "not the African way" and that it "undermines the dignity" of people doing business.
Obama urged AU leaders to invest in education, which will allow people to have a better future as everyone deserves "the dignity of living a life free from want."
"If you want your country to grow and succeed, you have to empower your women," Obama said, urging for further education of women and also highlighting certain traditions that demean women and "set the continent back."
The American leader called for the end of early marriage and female genital mutilation.
Militant Islamist groups like Boko Haram and al-Shabab are "murderers" because Islam means peace, Obama said. He also criticized the leaders of South Sudan, currently afflicted by civil war, for failing to bring peace to the world's newest country.
Obama also implored the 54-member AU bloc to respect the democratic rights of their constituents. He said African constitutions designate the universal rights of freedom of speech, press and assembly, but often do not uphold those rights.
"When journalists are put behind bars and activists are threatened, then you have democracy in name but not in substance," Obama said, adding that the United States will not stand by as citizens are denied their rights, even if speaking out is uncomfortable.
Obama received large cheers from the AU audience after stating that Africa's presidents should step down after their term is over.
"I think I'm a pretty good president! If I stood again, I think I could win!" Obama said. "Nobody should be president for life," stating that no-one is above the law.
"God bless Africa, God bless America," Obama concluded, previously adding that Africa has no better friend than the United States as the continent attempts to change.