CAPE TOWN, South Africa
Challenging African youth to seize a “moment of great promise,” President Barack Obama declared Sunday that the future of the young and growing continent still rests in ailing South African leader Nelson Mandela’s vision for equality and opportunity. Seeking to carve out his own piece of that legacy, Obama unveiled an ambitious initiative to double electricity access in sub- Saharan Africa, vowing to bring “light where there is darkness.”
Mandela, 94, remained in critical condition Sunday in a hospital in Pretoria, South Africa.
The president’s address at the University of Cape Town capped an emotionally charged day in this city, including a solemn visit to the Robben Island prison where Mandela was confined for 18 of his 27 years in captivity.
Obama stood with his family in Mandela’s cramped cell and peered across the lime quarry where Mandela toiled each day, causing the damage to his lungs that led to his latest hospital stint.
“Nelson Mandela showed us that one man’s courage can move the world,” Obama said in his speech. He was flanked by a diverse array of students, underscoring Mandela’s vision for a unified “rainbow nation” for the country once led by a white racist government.
In the flagship address of his trip to Africa, Obama outlined a U.S. policy toward the continent that focuses on increasing the region’s ability to support itself economically, politically and militarily. He said Africans must take much of the responsibility for achieving that goal, although he pledged American assistance.