Washington — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton praised Senegal as a champion of democracy and a force for peace, prosperity and progress in West Africa during a visit to Dakar, the first stop on her 10-day African tour.
"The United States is very impressed and admiring of the resilience of the Senegalese people, your commitment to democracy, and we want to be a good partner and a good friend as you continue to build this important nation into one that is a model not only for the Senegalese people, but for the entire world," Clinton said August 1 at the University of Cheikh Anta Diop.
Addressing an audience of students and young people, government officials and civil society representatives, the secretary said the United States is committed to maintaining a sustainable partnership with Senegal. She said the bilateral relationship already embodies President Obama's vision for the future of U.S.-Africa engagement, as outlined in a new policy directive announced in June.
"The Obama administration's comprehensive strategy on sub-Saharan Africa is based on four pillars: first, to promote opportunity and development; second, to spur economic growth, trade and investment; third, to advance peace and security; and fourth, to strengthen democratic institutions," Clinton said.
She said the United States is working with Senegal toward the initial goal of promoting development by building on the progress of initiatives such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). The foundation of U.S. investment in Senegal is a $540 million Millennium Challenge compact that is helping Senegal to improve roads, build bridges and irrigate roughly 90,000 acres of farm fields. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is investing $19 million to build schools and train teachers, $17 million to strengthen the food supply and $55 million to improve public health in Senegal.
The secretary said the United States encourages country ownership of the problems addressed through these initiatives, and is determined to work with Senegal to listen, learn and produce results together.
The United States and Senegal have a solid foundation for achieving Obama's second goal of spurring economic growth, trade and investment, as trade between the two countries rose 20 percent in 2011. Clinton said the United States is working to boost trade and investment in Senegal even more in 2012, but it will take more than increasing numbers and improved statistics to achieve meaningful progress.
"Growth needs to be translated into widely shared prosperity," she said. "What you want to see is sustainable, inclusive growth over the long term." She said a significant step toward achieving this goal will be to build greater economic integration between neighbors in Africa by removing both tariff and non-tariff barriers to regional trade.
The third pillar of Obama's plan, a commitment to shared security and regional problem-solving, is another area in which the United States and Senegal are working closely. Clinton said the two countries are partnering to combat terrorism, tackle drug trafficking and support peace and security throughout the region and around the world.
Finally, Clinton said the fourth goal of supporting democracy and human rights "is the heart of the American model of partnership" with Senegal and other African nations.
"By every measure, democracies make better neighbours and better partners," the secretary said. "They give people a way to devote their energies to productive political, economic and civic engagement, which reduces the allure of extremism."
Clinton added that open societies "offer more opportunities for economic, educational, cultural and people-to-people exchanges, which are the foundation for peace."
She said Senegal is a "compelling example for Africa and the world" of a successful democracy, and is one of the few countries in West Africa never to have had a military coup. Clinton commended the country's peaceful transfer of power during its most recent election. The vote put women in 65 of the 150 seats in the new National Assembly, giving Senegal one of the highest percentages of women in a directly elected legislative body in the world.
The secretary said the resilience of democracy is being repeated across the continent, as countries work toward freer media, fairer justice systems, more effective legislatures and more vibrant civil societies. As encouraging as these steps are, she said, there are still too many places in the region and across the continent where democracy is threatened, human rights are abused, and the rule of law is undermined. Clinton called on West African leaders like Senegal to support regional partners as they work toward political and economic liberalization.
"We want to help more people in more places live up to their own God-given potentials," she said. "We want this to be our mutual mission -- that is the work we are called to do in the 21st century."
Clinton's remarks came after her meeting with Senegalese President Macky Sall. They discussed a wide range of issues including economic issues and regional security.
Senegal is the secretary's first stop on an official tour set to take her to South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi and South Africa. She kicked off the trip July 31, and is set to depart for Washington August 10.