U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a group of African and
American delegates Wednesday that the United States will partner with
Africa to help the continent meet its full potential. Her speech
opened up the day's African Growth and Opportunity Act Forum in
Secretary Clinton re-affirmed the new U.S.
administration's commitment towards expanding its partnership with
African countries, expressing optimism in the continent's long-term
potential for growth and development.
"We believe in Africa's
promise. We are committed to Africa's future. And, we will be
partners with Africa's people," she said.
The secretary stressed the importance of trade for a region that is a perennial recipient of significant foreign assistance.
Africa counts for two percent of global trade," she said. "If
Sub-Saharan Africa were to increase that share by only one percent, it
would generate additional export revenues each year greater than the
total amount of annual assistance that Africa currently receives."
But the secretary also stressed to the delegates that economic progress is tied directly to good governance.
people believe that democracy is alive and well because an election has
taken place. But, as important as elections are, democracy is not just
about the ballot box. Citizens and governments need to work together
to build and sustain strong democratic institutions," she said.
sentiments echoed remarks made by U.S. President Barack Obama during
his visit to Ghana, last month, where he stated that African leaders
have to take ultimate responsibility for their nations' futures.
The secretary was warmly greeted at the forum, with African singing and dancing.
Security was tight. Only those with a specially issued security badge could get within the vicinity of the venue.
AGOA forum is an annual event, which brings together leaders in the
public and private sectors of the United States and Africa to
facilitate greater trade relations.
The African Growth and
Opportunity Act gives eligible countries the benefit of reduced trade
barriers for certain African-produced goods. Currently, 41 African
countries are offered the trade preferences under the act.
act is touted mostly for helping develop the African apparel and
textile industry. But both the U.S. and African leaders admit that the
continent has yet to take full advantage of the benefits offered under
Kenya is the ancestral homeland of President Obama's
father, but the American president has criticized the nation's leaders
and skipped the country in his first official trip to the continent.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga yesterday pushed back against Western
criticisms of the Kenya government, which is struggling to implement
key reforms agreed to after the country fell into violent turmoil
following a disputed December 2007 election. The prime minister says
that Africa does not need lectures, but assistance.
Clinton's remarks were followed with a video message from President
Obama, in which he reiterated his message that only Africans can raise
up Africa, but that he was personally committed to a full, mutual
partnership with the continent.
Mrs. Clinton was joined by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative, Ron Kirk.