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Nigerian President Upbeat on African Future


Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who met with President Bush at the White House Thursday, says peace and prosperity can be within Africa's grasp if the world unites behind the region. VOA's Michael Bowman reports Mr. Obasanjo, later attended a gala dinner to promote African economic progress.

Addressing hundreds of diplomats and dignitaries in Washington, President Obasanjo said African nations are rallying behind a set of common values. "Our development, our future, our present must be built on four pillars: pillar of peace, pillar of security, pillar of democracy, and pillar of good governance," he said.

The Nigerian leader said the consolidation of democracy in Africa will promote a circle of prosperity with its trading partners. As an example, he pointed to the United States, which imports oil from his nation but also has much in the way of goods to sell. "If we have these four pillars working, then [U.S.] oil requirement to fuel your economy, and for us to earn more money to be able to buy more things from you, and for you to put more people to work with better pay, is assured," he said.

President Obasanjo was the featured guest at the event, which paid tribute to the New Partnership for Africa's Development, or NEPAD, which the Nigerian leader helped launch in 2001. An offshoot of the African Union, NEPAD aims to combat poverty and other deeply-rooted problems in Africa by promoting sustainable economic growth.

Sitting alongside Mr. Obasanjo was World Bank President James Wolfensohn, who said, in an increasingly inter-dependent world, industrialized nations cannot turn a blind eye to Africa. "There is no way that our planet is going to have peace, however much we spend on military expenditure, if we do not create a healthy economic and social environment. And this applies significantly to Africa. We cannot just isolate Africa and say, 'leave it [alone].' There is no way of leaving Africa, not only because of its natural resources, but also because of its human potential," he said.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Obasanjo and President Bush discussed U.S. and Nigerian efforts to promote security in Africa. Mr. Obasanjo said he wanted to make the world and particularly Africa a more peaceful place to live. President Bush said the United States wants Africa to be a place of freedom, prosperity and hope.

The Thursday night dinner was sponsored by a foundation named after African-American civil rights leader Leon Sullivan. The foundation's chairman, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young, says NEPAD stands apart from previous efforts to improve Africa's fortunes. "It came from Africans themselves. And it is not the World Bank reviewing their governments or the IMF telling them what to do. It is a peer review [system]. And they [African nations] decided that they would only recognize democracies. Transparency is not an externally-imposed goal. It is something that they realize makes sense," he said.

Mr. Young adds that Africa has learned an important lesson: that more money can be made through honest efforts in a growing economy than can be stolen from a dying economy.

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