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Practice What You Preach There Mr. Lecturer…

At a press conference today in Pretoria, South Africa, President Obama lectured about job creation — and how to look out for your own national interests:

“Now, I do think that it’s important for Africans to make sure that these interactions are good for Africa. Because — let me just take the example of natural resources. I think there has been a long history of extracting resources from Africa. You take raw materials, you send them to some place else, where they get used, processed, sometimes sold back to Africa. The profits stay there, the jobs stay there, and not much stays in Africa. There’s a long history of that,” Obama said.

“Well, the truth is, the United States at this point on issues of energy, for example, frankly, we don’t need energy from Africa. Because of advances that have been made, we’re seeing oil production and natural gas production as well as clean energy production all growing at a rapid rate in the United States. So, our primary interest when it comes to working with Africa on energy issues has to do with how do we power Africa so that it can be an effective market creating jobs and opportunity in Africa but then we also then have somebody to trade with with and sell iPods to and airplanes and all kinds of good stuff.”  The audience laughed.

“So, when we look at what other countries are doing in Africa, I think our only — our only advice is to make sure it’s a good deal for Africa. Somebody says they want to come build something here, are they hiring African workers? Somebody says that they want to help you develop your natural resources? How much of the money is staying in Africa? If they say that they are very interested in a certain industry, is the manufacturing and value added done in Africa? Are they tolerating corruption that’s not benefiting the people but just benefiting a few at the top in their interactions with African countries? Those are the questions Africa should be asking. And hopefully one of the things that we can do is in our interactions, as a country that doesn’t have a colonial history here, and as a country that has made large investments in development on issues like HIV, aids, hopefully we can garner some trust when people ask us, you know, what are the kinds of development strategies that are going to be sustaining over the long term? But, as I said, I want everybody playing in Africa. The more the merrier. I think that is good. That gives Africans leverage, which I think is useful. But, again, ask those questions. Don’t just assume that folks come here and they are automatically benefiting Africans.”