In 1998, 11-year-old Lovelace Telleh vigorously waved a small American flag across from Ghana’s Independence Square while President Bill Clinton spoke. Clinton was the first American president to visit his life and Telleh didn’t think he could ever be more excited, but that changed when President Barack Hussein Obama announced he was coming to the small, West African nation.
“I’m more excited for Obama,” said Telleh, now a 22-year-old student at St. Paul Technical School in the capital, Accra. “He is one of the best Black Americans.”
Telleh, like around 25 percent of Ghanaians, is unemployed. He dreams of becoming a journalist or being in radio. With few opportunities after graduation, he doesn’t see a bright future for himself, so when President Obama addressed Ghana’s parliament on Saturday with a message of hope and progress, he was all ears.
Obama told Ghana that “Africa’s future is up to Africa,” but that America would be there to offer a helping hand. The president said America would only commit money to African countries if they supported democracy, good healthcare, eco-friendly energy solutions, and peaceful resolutions to conflicts.
Obama used Ghana as an example of a part of Africa “the West doesn’t often see.” Ghana has one of the strongest democracies in Africa. Since winning independence 52 years ago and after a series of military coups, Ghana has had three peaceful transfers of power.
“In Ghana, you help point the way forward,” said Obama about his hope that strong democracies would grow throughout Africa.
Ghana has been an example in other ways, too. They have a universal healthcare system, strict laws protecting the press, and spend more of their GDP on education than the United States.
Speaking to the youth of Africa (nearly 40 percent of Ghana is under 14 years of age), Obama asked them to reshape their country for the future. “The world will be what you make it,” Obama said.
Although Obama is popular among the majority of Ghanaians, it is the youth that are most excited. “He’s cool,” said 18-year-old student Lydia Asant. “I like everything about him.”
They also put a lot of hope in the first African-American president. “He will change our life,” said Kessben Enning, 20, of Kumasi. “He will create more economy. There will be American money.”
High school-age Ghanaians wear Obama bracelets, Obama T-shirts and soccer jerseys, and have made the song “Barack Obama,” by Ghanaian reggae artist Blakk Rasta, a hit.
In crowded living rooms, bars and hotels across Ghana, people gathered around TVs to watch Obama speak. The $63 million that Obama pledged to fight diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria, and praising Ghana several times, pleased Ghanaians.
“He is a good leader that one can trust,” said Francis Fia, 44, of Accra, after the speech was over. “You can tell he is honest.”
Telleh decided to watch Obama’s speech at home. The traffic in Accra was too thick to travel and he didn’t want to miss any of the speech. “I loved it,” said Telleh. “I liked how he donated all that money to the health initiative.”