documentBy Phillip Kurata
Washington — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told South African students that their country and the United States share a joint calling to strengthen human rights and other values in Africa and elsewhere.
"We have a deep and abiding connection," Clinton said at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa, August 8. "Like you, we are compelled by the arc of our nation's history to stand up around the world for the values we ascribe to and advance at home. ... We have to look beyond our borders."
Clinton said Africa will not reach its full potential until African countries break down trade barriers with their neighbors.
"That's why the Obama administration remains committed to renewing the African Growth and Opportunity Act [AGOA] with South Africa included before the act expires in 2015. We're pleased that Congress acted last week to extend the Third-Country Fabric Provision through 2015, which will have enormous benefits for entrepreneurs, especially women, in many of South Africa's neighbors," Clinton said. AGOA widens access to the U.S. market for African countries that bring their economic practices into line with international standards.
Clinton praised South African President Jacob Zuma for "championing" an African initiative for governments, the private sector and regional organizations to build a highway from Cape Town to Cairo. "With South Africa in the lead, perhaps I will be able to come back in a few years and actually drive it," she said.
Clinton said South Africa made a huge contribution to global security by becoming the first country to voluntarily renounce nuclear weapons. "This means South Africa can play an even greater role on issues like curbing Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons," she said.
Highlighting another facet of the broad partnership, the secretary noted that U.S. agricultural scientists are collaborating with colleagues at the University of Pretoria to develop food strategies for the continent. Farmers in Malawi notably are benefiting from the partnership by learning to use their land more efficiently and raise their incomes, she said.
"This is the kind of partnership we want to see more of, not just with South Africa but with other African countries that are becoming donors as well as recipients of assistance. Tanzania and Ghana, for example, are improving food security throughout East and West Africa. Nigeria has released supplies to help its neighbors in the Sahel," she said.
In the realm of human rights, South Africa is providing guidance to Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Kyrgyzstan on making a democratic transition. In South Africa, "you can point to independent trade unions that stood up for workers' rights and the civil society groups that provided legal counsel and other essential support. You can point to the courageous journalists who insisted on telling the truth even when it invited the government's wrath," Clinton said. In South Sudan, the United States and South Africa are partnering to train judges and strengthen the judicial system there.
Clinton told the Western Cape students that South African youth will play a key role in shaping the future.
"This world demands the qualities of youth - not a time of life but a state of mind, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity," she said, quoting Robert F. Kennedy, a former U.S. senator and attorney general. She urged the students to carry forward the legacy of Nelson Mandela, who used truth and reconciliation to lead South Africa to a new era.
"It's a burden being an American or a South African, because people expect you to really live up to those standards," Clinton said. "Let us work together so that the values that shaped both our nations may also shape a world that is more peaceful, more prosperous and more just."