Voice of America (Washington, DC)

4 August 2014

Africa: U.S.-Africa Summit Events Under Way in Washington

Events surrounding the summit between President Barack Obama and some 50 African heads of state have kicked off in Washington.

Secretary of State John Kerry urged African ministers to embrace free-market ideals and U.S.-African cooperation Monday at a forum focused on the African Growth and Opportunity Act. The secretary is due to meet with at least eight visiting African leaders by the end of day.

President Obama will address a U.S.-Africa Business Forum on Tuesday and take part in sessions focused on economic growth, regional security, and good governance on Wednesday.

Summit agenda

The U.S. is set to unveil nearly $1 billion in business deals, more funding for peacekeeping, and billions of dollars for food and power programs during the three-day summit.

China, Europe and Japan have all held similar events to encourage investment in Africa, but the White House denies its Africa Summit is in response to increasing investment in Africa from China.

U.S. businesses have generally been hesitant to invest in Africa despite the high growth rates seen in many countries.

Billions of dollars in new funding is expected to be announced for Power Africa during the summit. The program's goal is to add 10,000 megawatts of generation capacity and 20 million new electric customers in Africa by 2018.

Private industry has committed $7 billion to the program since it was announced last year by President Obama.

Countries have also said they will use the summit to lobby their interests in the U.S. For example, South Africa has already said its delegation will push for a 15-year extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act.

The law gives eligible Sub-Saharan Africa countries preferential treatment in their exports to the U.S., but the program that began in 2000 is set to expire next year.

Excluded

U.S. officials say only four African leaders were excluded from the talks - the presidents of Zimbabwe, Sudan, Eritrea and the Central African Republic.

The summit convenes at the same time several West African nations are facing an Ebola virus outbreak.

President Obama said Friday the United States is closely following the situation. He said African officials from at-risk countries will be screened for the disease before entering the U.S.

The leaders of Sierra Leone and Liberia have canceled their summit trips to Washington because of the Ebola outbreak.

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