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Bush Vows to Help Africa on Trade, Aid

President Bush says the United States is committed to working with African leaders to improve their economies. In an address to the people of Africa broadcast exclusively on Voice of America Wednesday, he cited his administration's efforts to expand trade between the United States and Africa as a key way to encourage reform and spur economic development.

President Bush says his administration is working with Africa on initiatives to encourage reform within the continent that will open up new opportunities for the people.

"At a time when freedom is on the march around the world it is vital that the continent of Africa be a place of democracy and prosperity and hope, where people grow up healthy and have the opportunity to realize their dreams," Mr. Bush said. "Africa is a continent of promise and the United States wants to help the people of Africa realize the brighter future they deserve."

In an address to the people of Africa broadcast exclusively on Voice of America Wednesday, Mr. Bush highlighted the achievements of his administration. He cited the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA, a law that offers incentives for 37 sub-Saharan African countries to continue their efforts to open their economies and build free markets mainly by giving them free access to U.S. markets.

Under AGOA, the president said U.S. exports to Africa rose 25 percent while African exports to the United States grew 88 percent and economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa is at its highest level in eight years.

"This success reflects the growing consensus in both Africa and the United States that open trade and international investment are the surest and fastest ways for Africa to make progress," the president said.

Mr. Bush also said the United States had reformed the way it distributes development aid to make it more results oriented. He said this was common sense.

"Aid works best in countries that are proving their commitment to govern justly, respect the rule of law, invest in their citizens, and open up their economies," he said. "When nations do these things and expand freedom and opportunity to all their citizens, entire societies can be lifted out of poverty and despair."

The president's remarks come one day after he met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has made African development and poverty reduction efforts a priority for the next summit of the world's richest countries. Mr. Blair will host the summit.

Mr. Blair has proposed an ambitious plan to double aid to Africa to $25 billion each year and $50 billion a year starting in 2015. President Bush has said while he agrees with the goal of eradicating poverty in Africa, increasing U.S. aid to six billion dollars a year, the U.S. share of the proposed $25 billion increase, is not possible under current U.S. budget restrictions.

Earlier this week President Bush announced boosting U.S. aid to Africa, which totaled $3.2 billion last year, by $674 million, mainly to address the risk of famine in the Horn of Africa.