Friday, October 2, 2009

Clinton: U.S. Stands Ready to Help Expand U.S.-Africa Business

Good governance is a prerequisite for expanding business opportunities)
By Charles W. Corey

Washington - The United States stands ready to help Africa expand the U.S.-Africa business relationship, but "let's make sure the governments of Africa are worthy of their people," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the Seventh Biennial U.S.-Africa Business Summit October 1.

In a keynote address, Clinton said Africa has enormous potential, and that increasing the U.S.-Africa business relationship requires good governance.

"I remain convinced that no place holds the opportunities of the future like Africa does," she said. "But that does not mean that we can just expect it to happen. We have to work together."

Clinton said: "We want to look back after the Obama administration and be able to say, 'We made a difference in Africa and we can see the results.' This is not only because it is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do," she told her audience. "It is very personal to President Obama. He considers himself a son of Africa because of his father's lineage. He and I talk about how we want to see positive changes, changes that we all know can be made given the intelligence, and the work ethic, and the extraordinary abilities of the people of Africa. So let's make sure that the governments of Africa are worthy of their people."

Clinton referred to her trip in August to seven African nations, underscoring the important place Africa holds with the Obama administration and the American people. "It is truly a high-level commitment from the entire administration because we start from a premise that the future of Africa matters to our own progress and prosperity. The Obama administration has strategies to help spur economic development in Africa and create conditions that will help improve the lives of the African people, which is to us, how you really measure success.

"We are eager to move beyond stereotypes," she said, "which paint Africa as a land of poverty, disease, conflict and not much else. We will continue to lay a new foundation for a new kind of engagement with Africa," she pledged, "one that is built on shared responsibility and shared opportunity and on partnerships that produce measurable, lasting results."

Clinton told her audience of American and African entrepreneurs, investors, officials and diplomats that "it is time to change the narrative" about Africa.

For too long, she said, "Africa has been viewed as a charity case instead of a continent capable of becoming a global economic engine of the 21st century. So it is time to change the narrative. It is time to understand that strengthened trade policies will enable African businesses to tap more effectively into existing markets and create new ones."

African nations can use technology and innovation to leapfrog early stages of development and become more quickly integrated into the global marketplace, she said.

She also said that reform of Africa's agricultural sector is essential to its future growth and prosperity, and that investing in people, and especially women, will enable Africa to move toward the sustainable future everyone is hoping for.

"We have a big agenda and we have a very positive vision," she said, warning that "none of this can happen without responsible African leadership, without good government and transparency and accountability, without acceptance of the rule of law, without environmental stewardship and the effective management of resources, without respect for human rights, without an end to corruption as a cancer which eats away at the entrepreneurial spirits and hopes of millions of people."

Clinton told her audience that the United States is committed to working with Africa to overcome these challenges, and she highlighted some recent success stories, praising Rwanda and the level of economic development now under way there, which, she said, is "directly traceable to the sound policies that the [Kagame] government has implanted" there.

Clinton's August trip took her to Kenya, South Africa, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Liberia and Cape Verde. She said that in each country she visited she saw examples of activities that are already paying dividends, from agriculture to business to the health sector.

"So across Africa, we know that there are opportunities to be seized and we know that there are people who will do the hard work, but what we have to do is to help create the right conditions."

Clinton said the United States is focusing on five key areas to help Africa: first, expanding trade, especially intraregional trade, among African countries by opening up intra-African markets; second, promoting development in agriculture, infrastructure, aviation and other key sectors; third, promoting energy security; fourth, promoting more public-private partnerships; and fifth, promoting good governance, transparency, accountability, adherence to the rule of law and an end to corruption.

At least four African heads of state attended the September 29-October 1 summit, sponsored by the Corporate Council on Africa. The summit showcased the latest trade and investment opportunities across Africa through more than 50 industry-specific sessions for more than 1,500 participants. The previous CCA summit was held in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2007.

(Published by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State)