Obama Speaks To Ugandan Young Leaders On Trade

hospital geneva; font-size: small;”>Obama made the remarks during an interaction with young African leaders at the University of Johannesburg-Soweto in South Africa on Saturday evening.

malady geneva; font-size: small;”>The discussion, that saw Obama respond to questions from the youth across Africa via a video link, was aired on Uganda television channel, NTV.

Below is a transcript of Obama’s interaction with Ugandan Young leaders.

UGANDA MODERATOR: Hello from Kampala in Uganda, “the pearl of Africa,” as we are known. I am Nancy Kacungira, a news presenter with NTV Uganda. And Uganda is a very youthful nation — more than half of our population is actually under the age of 15. I’m here today with a group of vibrant and dynamic young people. And as you can see, they are very excited to be addressing President Obama today and asking him a question.

Now, I’ve had the chance to interact with the young people here today, and they’re all great young leaders in their own right. And they all have different backgrounds and different experiences, but I’ve found that one of the things they do have in common is their passion — their passion for a better Uganda and for a better Africa. Mr. President, one of them is now going to ask you a question on behalf of the rest of the group.


Question: Hello, Mr. President. It’s an honor. My name is Eirene Ikomon (ph). My question comes on behalf of everyone seated here with me. Unfortunately, it’s also regarding trade. Mr. President, as young Ugandan leaders, we are looking to the world for equal business partners and commitments, and not necessarily aid. We are not looking for donors.

And yet, Mr. President, the policy you have just described right now seems to emphasize help coming in from the U.S. but emphasizing offering jobs and employment within the countries that they come into. As young leaders, Mr. President, we want to do the businesses at home and be the ones to own our own markets. So how do you, Mr. President, plan on assisting us in reaffirming the U.S. policy to achieve this vision? (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, with respect to U.S. policy, I think you mischaracterize it, because our policy is to see success here in Africa. Now, there’s no doubt that U.S. businesses also want to sell into Africa, because as President of the United States, I want to create some jobs in Africa as well.

But my attitude is that the more successful African entrepreneurs are, then the more they’re going to be purchasing and interested in purchasing U.S. goods.

And, conversely, when the economy in the United States is doing strong, then we’re going to buy more from Africa, and everybody’s standards of living can rise.

But as you heard me say earlier, I completely agree with you that we want more investment and value creation here in Africa.

Now, one thing we haven’t spoken about, which I think is critical, is intra-African trade. All too often, it’s easier to export, say, tea and coffee, from East Africa or flowers from East Africa to Europe than it is to export it someplace else in Africa.

And part of that is the legacy of colonialism, an orientation out of Africa rather than internal to Africa. Part of it is a lack of basic infrastructure — so port facilities, trains, rail, roads.

So one of the things that we’re going to be very interested in is working with the African Union as well as various regional organizations to find ways that we can start linking up markets inside of Africa, because particularly for new businesses — if you’re starting a business here in South Africa, then the best chance you have initially for export might be closer to home, one of the surrounding countries.

If Uganda — if you have a business that you want to get started, and initially you’ve gotten your product popular inside of Uganda, the next step before you think about selling to the United States, you might say to yourself, let me start selling some in Kenya, or let me start selling in Tanzania, or Rwanda.

And so part of what we have to do is to find additional ways in which Africans can also trade with each other.

The last point I will make — because it’s related to trade and capacity-building — I just came, as I said, from Senegal.

And one of the things that we were featuring was our Feed the Future program and a Food Security Alliance that we’re creating here in Africa. And we’ve already gotten nine countries to join, and Senegal just determined that it was going to join as well.

But we’ve already helped 7 million small farmers in Africa to pool their resources, access lower credit, link themselves together as one producer group so that they can market and sell more effectively. And we’ve seen those farmers increase their yields and their sales by 10, 20, 30, in some cases, 50 or 100 percent

I met with a young woman farmer who had started off with one hectare, now has 16. She has been able to achieve enough growth that she has now bought a tractor. She’s hired eight people.


Now, that’s not what we ordinarily think of as business or entrepreneurship, but if you think about the number of Africans who are involved in agriculture and giving them the tools where suddenly they’re getting better prices for their crops, they’ve got access to a marketplace, they now are getting enough credit to be able to mechanize their operations, and now suddenly they’re able to hire some people in their surrounding villages, you’ve just suddenly seen a small business grow.

And the next step may be then they start doing some small food processing. And next thing you know, now they’re suddenly supplying these processed foods to a school. And next thing you know, they’re supplying those processed foods to the whole country.

And so not every business is going to be an Internet business, an app — (laughter) — I mean, I know that’s what young people are all about — I’m just going to create an app, I’m the next Facebook.

That’s great, and I hope some of you do that, but when we think of development of Africa as a whole, especially if we’re thinking about broad-based development, then part of what we have to recognize is that a huge number of people inside of Africa are still in the agricultural sector, and the work that we’re doing is trying to create capacity for those small farmers who are essentially small entrepreneurs to be successful — because if they’ve got more money in their pockets, now they can afford to buy your app.

So thank you very much for the question, Uganda. Appreciate it. (Applause.)

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