Obama urges African nations not to make economic 'excuses'

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the Summit of the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, July 28, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday gave a preview of a summit he will hold with African leaders next week, saying African nations should look inward for solutions to economic woes and not make “excuses” based on a history of dependence and colonization.

Speaking to 500 young Africans finishing a six-week Washington leadership fellowship, Obama said while it was important for developed countries to consider providing some targeted debt relief, it was time to end the notion that all of African nations’ problems resulted from “onerous debt imposed by the West.”

“At some point, we have to stop looking somewhere else for solutions, and you have to start looking for solutions internally,” Obama told the enthusiastic audience.

“And as powerful as history is, and you need to know that history, at some point, you have to look to the future and say, ‘OK, we didn’t get a good deal then, but let’s make sure that we’re not making excuses for not going forward.’”

Next week’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington will convene economic and political leaders from across Africa to discuss the continent’s development and the U.S. role in partnership and investment.

Obama’s remarks amounted to a rejection of comments last month from Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who said Western “neo-colonial” domination of Africa has impeded the continent’s development. Nguema blasted what he said were too-low exchange rates, problems with natural resources’ pricing and Western-imposed “barriers to international trade” at a summit of the 54-nation African Union.

Obama said there was not a “single country” in Africa that could not be doing better with the resources it had.

“There are a lot of countries that are generating a lot of income, have a lot of natural resources, but aren’t putting that money back into villages to educate children. There are a lot of countries where the leaders have a lot of resources, but the money is not going back to provide health clinics for young mothers,” he said.

Reporting by Annika McGinnis; Editing by David Gregorio