4 August 2014

Africa: U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Opens in Washington


Washington — President Obama is welcoming more than 50 African leaders for a three-day U.S.-Africa summit that begins August 4 in Washington.

The leaders of Sierra Leone and Liberia canceled their trips because of the Ebola outbreak in their countries. Leaders of four other African nations -- Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Sudan and Central African Republic -- were not invited because of their countries' poor records on human rights.

At the summit, U.S. officials plan to unveil nearly $1 billion in business deals, announce more funding for peacekeeping, and commit billions more dollars to food and power programs in Africa.

Administration officials say the summit is an opportunity to discuss the future of an economically growing continent and address questions about how the U.S. can become a closer partner.

The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit is a historic opportunity to strengthen ties with African partners and highlight America's longstanding commitment to investing in Africa's development and its people, according to the Obama administration.

The summit's theme, "Investing in the Next Generation," reflects the shared goal of leaving a better world for future generations by achieving specific gains in peace and security, good governance and economic development.

Unlike many issues in Washington, U.S. engagement with the African continent enjoys broad bipartisan support.

The United States hopes to use the summit to build African capacity and integrate Africa into the global economy and security order, according to U.S. officials. The Obama administration sees enormous opportunities in Africa to create new markets, consolidate democratic progress and advance human rights.

The summit also will showcase U.S. initiatives to build African capacity, such as the Power Africa program to double access to electricity on the continent, and programs focused on building food security and enhancing global health.

On August 5, African leaders will meet with government officials at a business forum to address economic security. The gathering is expected to bring together 200 U.S. and African business leaders in order to find ways to strengthen financial ties by boosting trade and investment.

The U.S.-Africa Business Forum offers opportunities for increased investment and trade between America and the continent. Africa, home to six of the world's 10 fastest growing economies, is seeking foreign investors. The challenge facing the forum is ensuring economic gains are expanded and spread to benefit all of Africa's people, which will create new markets and lead to more stable and democratic governance.

An important part of U.S. trade with Africa trade is the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), U.S. legislation designed to assist economies of sub-Saharan Africa and improve economic relations.

The law gives African countries with good records of economic management and human rights duty-free access to U.S. markets.

AGOA has been "a cornerstone of America's economic engagement with sub-Saharan Africa for the past fourteen years," U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman told a Senate panel July 30. "And it has had some very important successes. U.S. imports from AGOA countries have grown from $8.2 billion in 2001 to $26.8 billion in 2013, a threefold increase."

More than 30 countries currently participate in AGOA, but U.S. officials say more could take part.


The threats posed by conflict, crime and terrorism to many communities that constrain the continent's prosperity also will be addressed at the summit.

Attendees will seek to advance shared goals to build African capacity to counter transnational threats and to participate in U.N. and African Union peace operations.

The summit underscores the United States' longstanding investment in strong democratic institutions and Africa's next generation of leaders, according to U.S. officials.

At a town hall meeting convened as part of the Young African Leaders Initiative in the lead-up to the summit, President Obama told a group of young Africans that "even as we deal with crises and challenges in other parts of the world that often dominate our headlines, even as we acknowledge the real hardships that so many Africans face every day, we have to make sure that we're seizing the extraordinary potential of today's Africa, which is the youngest and fastest-growing of the continents."

The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit "reflects a principle that has guided my approach to Africa ever since I became president -- that the security and prosperity and justice that we seek in the world cannot be achieved without a strong and prosperous and self-reliant Africa," Obama told attendees July 29.

The United States continues to support the aspirations of Africans for more open and accountable governance and respect for human rights, according to U.S. officials, and the United States is deepening its connection with Africa's young leaders, who are promoting positive change in their communities.

The U.S.-hosted summit will have no one-on-one meetings between the president and the African leaders, but administration officials say Obama will be spending the entire day meeting with leaders on August 5 at the heads-of-state summit. In addition, African heads of state and business leaders will meet with Cabinet-level officials during some of the events.


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