Obama Cites Kenyan Family Members’ Pledge ‘Economic Growth Can’t Just Be for the Lucky Few’

Fred Lucas | May 18, 2012 | 4:28pm EDT
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President Barack Obama speaks at the Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Friday, May 18, 2012, at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama invoked his poor family members in Kenya as a reason why “economic growth can’t just be for the lucky few at the top, it’s got to be broad-based, for everybody.”

Obama delivered remarks Friday at the Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security in the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington where he talked about plans for the United States and developed countries from the Group of Eight (G8) nations to assist African countries in agriculture.

“I’ve spoken before about relatives I have in Kenya, who live in villages where hunger is sometimes a reality -- despite the fact that African farmers can be some of the hardest-working people on Earth,” said Obama, who along with first lady Michelle Obama have a net worth of between $2.6 million and $8.3 million, according to financial disclosure forms released by the White House on Tuesday.

“Most of the world’s unused arable land is in Africa,” the president continued. “Fifty years ago, Africa was an exporter of food. There is no reason why Africa should not be feeding itself and exporting food again. There is no reason for that.”

Bono, lead singer of U2, sat in the front row during the speech.

The president went on to say that growth shouldn’t be reserved for those who already have enough.

“In Africa and around the world, progress isn’t coming fast enough and economic growth can’t just be for the lucky few at the top, it’s got to be broad-based, for everybody, and a good place to start is in the agricultural sector,” Obama said.

“So even as the world responds with food aid in a crisis -- as we’ve done in the Horn of Africa -- communities can’t go back just to the way things were, vulnerable as before, waiting for the next crisis to happen. Development has to be sustainable, and as an international community, we have to do better,” he added.

Obama presented a plan he said would help African countries be more self-sufficient. He pointed out that three years earlier, the G8 established a $22 billion package for global food security.

“On the other hand, we see an Africa that still faces huge hurdles, stark inequalities; most Africans still living on less than $2 a day; climate change that increases the risk of drought and famine,” Obama said. “All of which perpetuates stubborn barriers in agriculture, in the agricultural sector -- from bottlenecks in infrastructure that prevent food from getting to market, to the lack of credit, especially for small farmers, most of whom are women.”

He said under the new alliance, the United States will continue food and emergency aid to Africa, under the plan, but “challenges” more nations, companies and non-governmental organizations to take action and G8 countries to honor commitments.

He announced 45 companies “from major international corporations to African companies and cooperatives” pledged to invest more than $3 billion for the effort. The plan also calls for exploiting mobile phone and satellite imagery for weather forecasts and market prices to be in the hands of farmers. The World Bank will also weigh in on rising food prices. Lastly, the plan focuses on nutrition.

“When there is good nutrition, especially in those thousand days during pregnancy up to the child’s second birthday, it means healthier lives for that child and that mother,” Obama said. “And it’s the smart thing to do because better nutrition means lower health care costs and it means less need for assistance later on.”

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