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President Bush Says African Success Stories are Example for Rest of Continent

President Bush is in Africa at the start of a five-nation trip focusing on economic development and the fight against HIV/AIDS and malaria. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, Mr. Bush began his trip in Benin for talks with President Boni Yayi.

President Bush says this second trip to the continent is meant to demonstrate America's commitment to improving the lives and livelihoods of Africans.

"I am here to really confirm to the people of Benin and the people on the continent of Africa that the United States is committed to helping improve peoples' lives," he said.

The Bush administration is funding primary education and family health projects in Benin including a program to provide anti-malarial bed nets to every family.

President Yayi says his country's cotton-based economy is also helped by lower tariffs under the U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

"My country is also benefiting from the president's Millennium Challenge Account initiative as well as the AGOA whose ultimate goal is to create the conditions favorable to economic growth in a sustainable manner in order to reduce poverty and build an emerging nation," he said.

President Yayi, who is the former director of the West African Development Bank, says he and President Bush discussed diversifying Benin's economy away from its dependence on cotton, which accounts for 40 percent of Gross Domestic Product and roughly 80 percent of official exports.

One-third of Benin's nearly seven million people live in poverty. Building on reforms which began in the 1990's, Benin signed a $307-million compact with the U.S. Millennium Challenge Account in 2006.

Those funds are meant to improve property rights by reducing the time and cost of obtaining a land title. The program also intends to expand access to financial services, train more members of the judicial system, and boost imports and exports through the port of Cotonou.

U.S. officials say the compact is expected to lift nearly a 250,000 Beninois out of poverty by 2015.

After Benin, President Bush spends two days in Tanzania before visiting Rwanda, Ghana, and Liberia.

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