Obama's Africa Forum: Future Is Forward, Not in the Past

This week President Obama hosted a landmark event to celebrate the future of Africa -- a continent that will have a population of over 1.5 billion in the next several years. He met with Africa's next generation of leaders in a unique forum -- Africa Young Leaders' Forum -- that brought together 115 young African men and women, from 40 countries, embarking on making a difference in their communities... in their nations... by focusing on the importance of transparent election, good leadership, creating new businesses, and developing initiatives to address Food security, Education, the Environment, Economics, Democracy and Self-help, or what I like to call the FEEEDS issues (see blogitrrs.blogspot.com on FEEEDS).

This year 17 African nations will celebrate 50 years of independence -- a half century -- and it is time to take stock of what the next 50 years will look like. Who better to have that discussion with than the next generation of leaders? This is what the Obama Administration was bold enough and wise enough to do! So to those who saw the Forum differently -- you missed the point! Yes there is a need to put down markers with current leaders not doing right by their people, but the larger point is to build bridges with Africa's next generation.

Recently, the U.S. has been engaged in Africa in an unprecedented manner with signature initiatives that focus on the FEEEDS issues with the President working with African leaders to help move their nations forward. Why discuss Africa's future with future leaders? Because more than half the Continent is home to people under the age of 25 right now! Because the future for change on the FEEEDS issues rest with them! And, because Africa's future strength can make America stronger as we forge partnerships and strategic relationships on global issues from development, human rights, and nuclear cooperation.

Democratic change in Africa is important. Look at the positive outcome of the Kenya referendum this week when violence marred the previous election. We cannot afford not to engage, and certainly we cannot ignore the generation in Africa that will be America's partners in the future. Our behavior during the immediate post-Cold War years should have taught us all that! As an example, for Nigeria's future, the USG has established a Bi-National Commission (BNC) focused on many of the FEEEDS issues addressed at the Obama Africa Forum. We are focusing on Nigeria's democracy and providing technical support for their Must-do Right critical elections in 2011. The BNC has met twice with the next session August 24-25 in Abuja, Nigeria, on Nigeria's elections. The three young Nigerians who participated in President Obama's Forum will discuss their views on the FEEEDS issues in a roundtable in Abuja, Nigeria on August 12.