Good morning. I am delighted to be here today and would especially like to thank Dr. Peter Pham for the invitation. This is a very exciting time for us. Next Monday, President Obama will welcome 51 Heads of State and Government and other senior leaders from across Africa to the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. The Summit, which will take place over three days, is the first such event of its kind and the largest event any U.S. President has ever held with African leaders.
It is an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen U.S. ties with Africa and highlight our commitment to addressing issues that affect us collectively.
We have two main objectives: 1) We want African leaders, and African citizens, to come away with the clear message that the United States cares about their continent and is committed to an enduring, multifaceted partnership. 2) We also want to see the Summit lead to increased American investment on the continent and to more direct linkages between U.S. and African companies.
Overview of Summit
As you likely have heard, this will not be your typical Summit. At the explicit direction of the President, it is designed to be interactive and conversational. We have been working closely for months to set the agenda with our partners including African governments, Washington-based Ambassadors, private sector leaders, interagency stakeholders, and representatives of civil society for the Summit. This participatory format reflects the multilayered, long-term partnership that characterizes the U.S. relationship with Africa.
Perhaps as an even bigger demonstration of the depth and diversity of U.S. interest in Africa, we are currently tracking an incredible number of side events – more than 80 at last count – hosted by businesses, nongovernmental organizations, diaspora groups, and think tanks. This participation very clearly shows that it is not just the U.S. Government that cares about Africa, but also the American people. I know that many of you in the room today are playing major roles in these events, and I want to personally thank you for the time and energy you have invested in helping us make the Summit a success.
Some critics suggest that a regional Summit like this minimizes the importance of bilateral relationships. But I disagree. Bilateral ties are the bedrock of U.S. foreign policy. We have more Embassies in African capitals than any other country in the world. Our Ambassadors and their teams engage with our counterparts on a daily basis. This is precisely why Secretary Kerry urged the Senate to confirm our remaining Ambassadorial nominees – and why it is so crucial that they do so quickly – so that they can be in place to nurture these critical relationships.
That said, in today’s world many of our highest priorities are regional and global in scope. Transnational threats like violent extremism, climate change, health threats, trafficking of arms, narcotics, people and wildlife, economic insecurity, to name a few, have no regard for national borders and are too big for any one nation to resolve. So, just as we work bilaterally with African countries, we also work with them in regional and multilateral fora. It is why the United States is so deeply engaged with the African Union and why the Chairperson of the AU and several other senior officials will be here next week for the Summit.
We know the United States is not the only country looking to partner with African nations on a regional or bilateral basis. The suggestion that the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit is a reaction to some other event or some other country’s activities in Africa overlooks our five solid decades of collaboration and cooperation. Ambassador Rice stated clearly yesterday, the United States “does not see Africa as a pipeline to extract vital resources nor a funnel for charity.” We are not threatened by the presence of other nations in Africa. Rather, we encourage our African partners to determine what relationships, whether transactional or enduring, will most benefit the lives of their people.
As I said, we hope to see increased U.S. investment as one of the Summit’s key outcomes. When we talk about the fact that most of the world’s fastest growing economies are in sub-Saharan Africa, we’re also seeing a burgeoning middle class of African consumers and an expanding market for U.S. direct investment. This means enormous growth opportunities for American business and new jobs for Africans and Americans.
Since 2000, the African Growth and Opportunity Act has played a fundamental role in our efforts to build sustainable inclusive economic growth in Africa and promote opportunities for U.S. companies.
President Obama has made it clear that his Administration will seek a seamless renewal of AGOA, and we have been working closely with our colleagues on the Hill in pursuit of that goal. It is up to Congress to decide when and for how long AGOA will be extended. What is important is that this has support on both sides of the aisle. We are looking forward to the AGOA Ministerial on Monday as a chance to celebrate AGOA’s successes and to reflect on ways to modernize and strengthen the program.
Later on Monday, small-group dinners for American CEOs, African Heads of State and Governments will be held all across the city. These dinners were arranged to give these individuals a chance to discuss what is needed on both sides to move our economic cooperation forward.
The following day, the Commerce Department and Bloomberg Philanthropies will co-host the U.S.-Africa Business Forum at the Mandarin Oriental. There will be approximately 300 participants from U.S. and African business leaders, African Heads of State and Ministers, U.S. Government agencies, and Members of Congress.
Representatives will attend from many sectors including power and energy, infrastructure, finance and capital investment, information communication technologies, consumer goods, and agriculture. Again, participation is limited to allow for more direct engagement.
As Ambassador Rice mentioned yesterday, “We’ve deliberately focused the summit beyond the crises of the moment to envision the future we want and how we can work together to achieve critical goals–10 and 15 years from now.” On Wednesday, President Obama will host three Leaders Sessions at the State Department.
The first session, Investing in Africa’s Future, will be both an opening plenary and a discussion of inclusive, sustainable development and economic growth. I expect the discussion to draw from conversations that took place during the preceding two days at the AGOA Ministerial, the Business Forum, and the Power Africa event hosted by the Corporate Council on Africa.
A word about Power Africa, the initiative President Obama launched last summer to increase electricity generation capacity in sub-Saharan Africa by 10,000 megawatts. Beginning in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Tanzania, Power Africa represents a new model for development, leveraging private sector investment to meet generation and access goals.
Twelve U.S. Government agencies and other public and private sector partners are deploying development assistance, financing, investment, and diplomatic tools to accelerate dozens of energy transactions. Over the next five years, the United States will commit more than $7 billion in financial support, so that we can attract more private investment in Africa’s energy sector. So this is not about overnight solutions or one-off deals, but instead about long-term collaborative efforts.
Peace and Regional Stability is the theme of the second session. This session will focus on shared concerns and potential new ways to work together to find long-term solutions to regional security and peacekeeping challenges. Many African countries are facing significant threats from violent groups exploiting socio-economic challenges, as well as local grievances, ethnic group tensions, weak institutions, and porous borders. The United States supports African efforts to improve security at the sub-regional, national, and continental levels, with the clear understanding that our partners are in the lead. So, we work in cooperation with them in the African Union and across their security sector – with their police, other law enforcement agencies, justice systems, and armed forces.
How are we cooperating? To give just a few examples: since 2005 we have trained over a quarter of a million African peacekeepers in 25 countries through our Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance Program, or ACOTA. We are working to counter extremism in the Sahel region through the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership in the west, and the Partnership for Regional East Africa Counterterrorism in the east.
We are supporting the African Union-led missions in Somalia, and we supported the African Union-led Missions in Mali and the Central African Republic before they transitioned to a blue-helmeted UN operation. In these instances we are not imposing American solutions, but rather, helping build resilience, capacity, and partnerships that address instability’s complex root causes and not just its most troubling manifestations.
Wednesday’s last conversation will concern Governing for the Next Generation. This discussion will allow us to highlight areas where African governments are registering progress. It will also provide an opportunity for a candid exchange about how we might deepen our partnership to tackle obstacles to development and the full achievement of fundamental rights. The discussion will focus on strengthening public institutions, civil society, rule of law, and opportunities for youth while tackling the billions in lost revenue due to illicit finance and corruption.
These are not the only topics that will be addressed in the Summit’s official agenda. The U.S. Government will host six official side events, called “Signature Events,” that will bring together certain U.S. and African government Leaders and officials, members of African and U.S. private sector, the diaspora, and others. These Signature Events are designed to deepen awareness of some of the critical issues facing the continent and to foster collaboration on ways we might work together to resolve them.
The Signature Events are:
- Honoring the Contributions of the Faith Community
- The Civil Society Forum
- Investing in Women for Peace and Prosperity
- Investing in Health
- Resilience and Food Security in a Changing Climate
- Combating Wildlife Trafficking
Unfortunately we don’t have time here to detail each of these events, but I did want to tell you a little bit about the Civil Society Forum. On Monday morning, 600 representatives of governments, civil society, diaspora groups, the private sector and the philanthropic community will gather for a series of sessions and a Town hall hosted by Secretary Kerry. The event will demonstrate the importance of leveraging the knowledge, experience and resources of citizens and civil society and safeguarding civic space.
Before I conclude, a few words on the subject of youth engagement. This past week, 500 of Africa’s most inspiring young leaders from across the African continent gathered here in Washington. They are the first cohort of the newly renamed Mandela Washington Fellowship of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), President Obama’s signature initiative for engaging with youth in Africa.
In the past generation, Africa has experienced remarkable change. Now we must think about the change we hope to see for the next generation.
If the continent is to realize its potential for economic growth, African youth must be engaged. If it fails and this growth is not achieved, the continent will have the largest unemployed youth population on earth. Millions of youth will not be invested in the future of their nations or communities. Millions will live with the potential of being attracted to extremist ideologies or criminal activity because no positive alternatives seem accessible.
This is what YALI, the Mandela Washington Fellowship, and the Summit’s overarching theme of “Investing in the Next Generation” is about for us. Africa, just like the United States, needs dedicated young people to become leaders in all aspects of their societies – in schools, in business, in civil society. This is why President Obama invited his African counterparts to discuss their plans for youth engagement, to share best practices and help others build on successful models. As the President said on Monday morning in his YALI Town Hall,
“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.”
In conclusion, let me stress that we see the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit as a reaffirmation of the United States’ ongoing commitment to Africa. We look forward to the energizing effect this Summit will have on our bilateral and regional relationships across the continent and on our investment and business ties. A decade from now or even five years from now, I am certain we will look back on this Summit as having deepened the partnership between the American and African peoples as we pursue a better future for us all.