President Barack Obama praised the African state of Ghana on Thursday as a model of democracy and growth in a continent that many Americans associate with poverty and violence.
“There’s sometimes a tendency to focus on the challenges that exist in Africa – and rightfully so,” said Obama, who sat beside Ghana’s president, John Atta Mills, in the Oval Office.
“But I think it’s important for us to also focus on the good news that’s coming out of Africa, and I think Ghana continues to be a good-news story,” he said, warmly thanking Mills for the hospitality shown the U.S. first family when the Obamas visited the country in 2009.
Ghana, the world’s second biggest cocoa producer, posted double-digit growth in 2011 and is one of the more stable countries in West Africa.
The U.S. president commended Mills for his action on human rights and governance, voicing Washington’s approval of the stability that Ghana provides in a fragile region of Africa.
Its neighbor, Ivory Coast, suffered months of violence last year after a disputed election, and other near-neighbors Liberia and Sierra Leone experienced years of brutal conflict.
“Ghana has proven, I think, to be a model for Africa in terms of its democratic practices,” said Obama, noting that both leaders faced re-election in 2012.
Mills told Obama, “We are going to ensure that there is peace before, during, after the election, because when there is no peace, it’s not the elitists who will suffer, it’s the ordinary people who have elected us into office.”