Obama’s Eyes on Africa

Hope. Just hope.

The hope of better days. The hope that the people of Africa, this unloved continent, this continent of difficulties, may finally have a say in things. The hope for a respectful development. The hope that peace succeeds in its conflicts and that joint efforts can halt the diseases that undermine its future.

This is the intense, but at the same time realistic, message that U.S. President Barack Obama delivered this weekend, during his first official visit to Africa. Visiting Ghana, one of the few African democracies, Obama launched a vibrant call for Africa to take its destiny into its own hands.

Inspired by his recent presidential campaign during which he managed to convince millions of Americans to trust him, Barack Obama has emphasized, with justice, intensity and conviction, the importance for Africa to combat anti-democratic practices, conflicts and disease.

More importantly, he knew to trust the Africans. But the road to better days will be long and fraught with pitfalls.

Major challenges

Population growth in Africa will be exploding, with a population expected to double within 40 years to reach two billion people. The continent will then hold 22 percent of the world’s population.

This rampant population growth will result in major challenges in economics, health, education and governance. The AIDS fight alone will require constant efforts to try to raise life expectancy in developing countries.

The bar is high and Africa will not accomplish this alone. The support of industrialized countries and America cannot be ignored.

Despite many challenges, Africa must dream of the day when peace will eliminate war, when democracy will defeat nepotism and corruption, when health will triumph over disease and when wealth will not only be seen in developed countries.

And this dream may be based on a speech given in Ghana on some Saturday in July of 2009 by the first black president of the United States, with the blood of Africa running through his veins.

The gift of self

Despite a difficult economic context, the generosity of Canadians does not seem to be questioned. At least, that is what a Statistics Canada survey on donations, volunteering and contributions suggests.

Conducted among 22,000 Canadians in 2007, the study highlights the generosity of people who do not hesitate to financially support charities or who volunteer to ensure the smooth running of non-profit organizations.

The survey reveals that 25 percent of the most generous donors have financially supported one or more charities for an average amount of $364. These donors provided 82 percent of the total value of donations, while 25 percent of people who spent the most time volunteering provided 78 percent of unpaid work.

During the 12 months covered by the survey, some 23 million Canadians, or 84 percent of the population aged 15 and over, have donated money to a nonprofit organization or charity. During the same period, 12.5 million Canadians, or 46 percent of the population, gave their time to support a cause they hold dear.

Religious organizations were the main beneficiaries. Popular donations have also supported, in order, the social services sector, hospitals, education and sports and recreation.

In this new millennium, it remains reassuring to note that generosity and selflessness are core values ingrained in the habits of Canadians.

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