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Ghana leading Africa in governance

TEXT OF STORY

Bill Radke: President Obama wraps up meetings in Italy today, then the first couple heads to Ghana for his first presidential visit to sub-Saharan Africa. He could've chosen a different country -- South Africa is that continent's biggest economy. Nigeria is a major supplier of oil to the U.S. And then of course there's Kenya, where his father was born. Reporter Gretchen Wilson explains why Obama chose Ghana, and what it signals about his approach to Africa and the developing world.


Gretchen Wilson: Ghana's not an economic powerhouse. GDP of the former British colony barely tops $17 billion. But the White House calls the country "one of our most trusted partners in sub-Saharan Africa." That's because of Ghana's sound governance.

Ross Herbert is with the South African Institute of International Affairs:

Ross Herbert: It went through many years of coups and counter-coups and instability. And it seems to have in recent years really learned some of those hard lessons about what not to do.

In last year's presidential election, opposition leader John Atta Mills beat incumbent John Kufuor by just a few thousand votes. Kufuor conceded and stepped down. Compared to Ghana's neighbors, this democratic transfer of power stands out.

Herbert: It's comparatively an island of stability in a sea of instability in West Africa.

That's what President Obama says his visit will underscore. Last week, he spoke to AllAfrica Media, an online news company.

President Barack Obama:: Countries that are governed well, that are stable, where the leadership recognizes that they are accountable to the people and that institutions are stronger than any one person, have a track record of producing results for the people. And we want to highlight that.

Tomorrow, President Obama will give a major speech on development and democracy in the Ghanaian parliament. He's likely to promote the idea that transparency, strong court systems, and regular elections can lead to economic growth.

President Obama: You're not going to get investment without good governance.

President Obama's visit will be brief. He'll return to the U.S. tomorrow night. But we'll hear more about U.S. relations with Africa later this summer. In August, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attend a trade forum in Nairobi, Kenya, and visit several other countries on the continent.

I'm Gretchen Wilson for Marketplace.

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