U.S. Summit Heralds New Relationship with African Leaders
In the recently held summit in Washington with African leaders, U.S. President Barack Obama emphasised how the relationship between America and Africa is evolving. He no longer sees America’s role towards Africa as that of a humanitarian giving aid, but rather that both countries are working towards an economic partnership on more equal footing.
“We all know what makes Africa such an extraordinary opportunity,” stated President Obama in his speech at the summit. “Some of the fastest-growing economies in the world. A growing middle class. Expanding sectors like manufacturing and retail. One of the fastest-growing telecommunications markets in the world. More governments are reforming, attracting a record level of foreign investment. It is the youngest and fastest-growing continent, with young people that are full of dreams and ambition.”
He further added that his firsthand experience, travelling through Africa and speaking to the people, had further opened his eyes to the fact that Africans had a desire “not just for aid, but for trade and development that actually helps nations grow and empowers Africans for the long term”.
The summit covered talks on Africa’s potential growth, as well as the factors such as security concerns and corruption which the U.S. perceived as holding Africa back as a continent globally.
During the summit, US firms pledged $37 billion towards investment in Africa as a powerhouse in its own right. This is added to the president’s 2013 pledge to not only double the access to electricity across Africa, but also help alleviate poverty through U.S. run educational programmes targeting over 50 million Africans.
It was also announced at the summit that the U.S. promised a $250 million investment warranty towards the construction of the Lake Turkana Wind Project in Kenya. The project would involve the erection of a 310-megawatt wind farm, currently the largest in Africa, which is estimated to up Kenya’s electricity generation by 20%, giving over 2.5 million Kenyans access to power.
All these projects mark the change from pure humanitarian works, and rather show that America is more interested in enabling Africa to start functioning as an economic power within its own right.
President Obama explained that, “this summit reflects a perspective that has guided my approach to Africa as President. Even as Africa continues to face enormous challenges, even as too many Africans still endure poverty and conflict, hunger and disease, even as we work together to meet those challenges, we cannot lose sight of the new Africa that’s emerging.”
Encouraging good governance
On the subject of Africa’s challenges, being mainly the issues of security and corruption, the U.S. also plans to step into help curb these problems. The summit also discussed the president’s plans to afford Africa peace-keeping support, as well as renewed security co-operation between the nations.
Added to this, the nations pledged to continue talks on the subject of good governance practices, with experts to be brought in to aid the implementation of best governance practices in areas like transparency.
“We find that in some cases, engaging a country that generally is a good partner but is not performing optimally when it comes to all the various categories of human rights, that we can be effective in working with them on certain areas and criticising them and trying to elicit improvements in other areas,” cited the U.S. president.
The three day summit closed with President Obama’s remarks that it was “an extraordinary event”, as well as the promise from all the nations involved promising to continue such talks.
“I’ll strongly encourage my successor to carry on this work because Africans must know they will always have a strong partner in the United States of America,” stated President Obama in his closing remarks to the summit.
- Kevin J. Kelley, “Obama hails Kenya-born entrepreneur at Africa Summit”, Daily Nation, 6 August 2014. Available at: http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Obama-hails-Kenya-born-entrepreneur-at-Africa-Summit/-/1056/2410154/-/bvtg3mz/-/index.html
- “Obama’s speech at US-Africa Business Forum”, New Vision, 6 August 2014. Available at: http://www.newvision.co.ug/news/658430-obama-s-speech-at-us-africa-business-forum.html
- “Barack Obama hails ‘new Africa emerging’”, BBC, 7 August 2014. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-28678769