News / Africa

Obama Set to Host US-Africa Summit

President Barack Obama speaks to participants of the Presidential Summit for the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders in Washington, July 28, 2014. The summit was the lead-up event to the inaugural U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit (Aug. 4-6), the largest gathering any U.S. president has held with African heads of state.
President Barack Obama speaks to participants of the Presidential Summit for the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders in Washington, July 28, 2014. The summit was the lead-up event to the inaugural U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit (Aug. 4-6), the largest gathering any U.S. president has held with African heads of state.
William Eagle

President Obama will be welcoming more than 50 African leaders for a three-day U.S.-Africa summit to begin August 4 in Washington, D.C.

Not invited are the presidents of four countries with a record of human rights violations: Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Sudan and Central African Republic. The leaders of Sierra Leone and Liberia have canceled their trips because of the Ebola outbreak in their countries.

At the summit, the U.S. is expected to unveil nearly $1 billion in business deals, more funding for peacekeeping, and commit billions more dollars to food and power programs in Africa.

Administration officials say it’s an opportunity to discuss the future of an economically-growing continent, and address questions about how the U.S. can become a closer partner.

Themed “Investing in the Next Generation," the summit meetings will be designed to identify shared interests that will be needed if the continent is to meet the needs of its young people: health care, education, and work place opportunities.

Story continues after related video report by VOA's Miriama Diallo:

African Leaders Head to Washington for Summiti
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Mariama Diallo
August 02, 2014 3:09 AM
Security throughout Africa will be on the agenda of nearly 50 leaders at the US Africa Leaders Summit next week -- Tuesday and Wednesday -- in Washington. The Congolese president, speaking to an audience of Americans, diplomats and African diaspora, pointed to terrorist threats and armed violence, but argued the issue goes much deeper than military or police action. VOA's Mariama Diallo reports.


At a time when armed conflict has created a humanitarian emergencies in Central African Republic and South Sudan, and East and West African countries are fighting the spread of radical Islamists, the first goal is to ensure peace and stability needed for development.

Summit participants will discuss how to end violence and ensure both regional and domestic security.

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That effort will include reforms to national militaries, says Joseph Siegle, research director for the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at National Defense University in Washington, D.C.

"There’s  a recognition that part of the challenge is that Africa’s police and military aren’t always very professional, and this can lead to inappropriate or heavy-handed responses, especially when dealing with domestic security threats, which involve [the killings] a lot of innocent bystanders," he said. "This tends to alienate the local population and further fuel grievances."

"The challenge [for Obama and the heads of state] is how do you [separate and address] the domestic issues and then the transnational components of those threats?"

Trade, investment

On Tuesday, African leaders will meet with government officials at a business forum to address economic security. The gathering is expected to bring together 200 U.S. and African business leaders in order to find ways to strengthen financial ties by boosting trade and investment.

South African President Jacob Zuma and his wife Bongi Ngema arrive at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Aug. 3, 2014 to attend the US - Africa Leaders Summit.South African President Jacob Zuma and his wife Bongi Ngema arrive at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Aug. 3, 2014 to attend the US - Africa Leaders Summit.
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South African President Jacob Zuma and his wife Bongi Ngema arrive at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Aug. 3, 2014 to attend the US - Africa Leaders Summit.
South African President Jacob Zuma and his wife Bongi Ngema arrive at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Aug. 3, 2014 to attend the US - Africa Leaders Summit.


An important part of U.S. trade with Africa trade is the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), U.S. legislation designed to assist economies of sub-Saharan Africa and improve economic relations.

AGOA gives African countries with a good records of economic management and human rights duty-free access to U.S. markets. Today, Africa sells about seven thousand products to the U.S., worth about $27 billion.

More than 20 countries participate in AGOA, but U.S. officials say more could take part.

Experts such as Witney Schneidman, senior international advisor for Africa at the global law firm of Washington-headquartered Covington and Burling, says AGOA should be renewed for 15 years to ensure a stable investing environment.

"Another idea being considered by government officials is to enhance USAID trade hubs in Africa," he said, explaing that the hubs, or information centers, help African businesses export their goods to the U.S. market.

Schneidman also says they should be renamed trade and investment hubs that also help U.S. companies interested in the African market.   

"Those trade hubs need to pull together," he said. "We need a  whole of government approach so that you have our ambassadors and embassies in lockstep with our commerce and agriculture officials, along with officials from [the Export-Import Bank of the United States] and the [Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries].

"[This way] we can present one face," he said. "A one-stop shop to U.S. companies on how the U.S. government can help them be successful in Africa."

Human rights

The summit agenad also includes a session on governance, though some activists say the current meeting schedule does not pay enough attention to human rights and democratization issues.

Civil society groups have voiced displeasure at not being invited to take part in any roundtable discussions with African leaders despite a civil society forum scheduled for Monday. 

Adam Shapiro of the human rights group Front Line Defenders said U.S. emphasis on human rights and good governance is what should separate this gathering from recent Africa investment summits held by China, India, Japan and Russia.

Republic of Guinea Prime Minister Mohamed Said Fofana arrives at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Aug. 2, 2014, to attend the US - Africa Leaders Summit.Republic of Guinea Prime Minister Mohamed Said Fofana arrives at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Aug. 2, 2014, to attend the US - Africa Leaders Summit.
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Republic of Guinea Prime Minister Mohamed Said Fofana arrives at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Aug. 2, 2014, to attend the US - Africa Leaders Summit.
Republic of Guinea Prime Minister Mohamed Said Fofana arrives at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Aug. 2, 2014, to attend the US - Africa Leaders Summit.


"In those summits, there were very low expectations from Africa that any kind of issues about governance or human rights or transparency would be brought up," Shapiro said. "But when it comes to the U.S., there is an expectation that these kinds of issues would be on the table."

Shapiro, who wants civil society to be a part of all discussions — especially those on security and good governance — also wants President Obama to publicly identify leaders who’ve gained power through elections and transparency, such as those in Liberia, Ghana, Tanzania and Botswana.

He and other activists have been critical of summit invitations to leaders accused of human rights abuses, such as Teodoro Obian Nguema, long-serving president of Equatorial Guinea, and Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, president of Egypt.

Unlike China’s recent Africa summit, the U.S.-hosted summit will have no one-on-one meetings between the president and the African leaders.

Administration officials say Obama will be spending the entire day meeting with leaders on Wednesday at the heads-of-state summit. Heads of state and business leaders will be able to meet with cabinet-level officials during some of the events.

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Comments
     
by: Immanuel from: Stockholm
August 04, 2014 6:04 AM
I would like the african leaders to hold town hall meetings with the diaspora group of their countries. The african diaspora contribute enormously to the development of the continent.I would like every african leader to a question and answer session at VOA,CNN,BBC about some of the challenges their people face and hwo they would like it to be solved. Straight Talk Africa, a Voa program can better interview some of the leaders at least one in central,west , east, southern, and north africa.Another worry is the how islamists turns africa into a conflict continent and a place to experiment jihad, suicide bombing, How can african leaders bring back term limits tosome africa constitutions they conived with a few loyalists and removed?

by: Anonymous
August 03, 2014 1:17 PM
when will the sit tight african leaders realise that they can let people choose whoever to lead them with vote rigging by ruling govenment parties

by: Anonymous
August 03, 2014 12:53 PM
Most of these african leaders represent themselves and a few tribesmen.They take country resources and do as if its theirs.

by: Benjamin Likute Bauma from: South Africa
August 03, 2014 7:54 AM
As an African I feel embarrassed by this type of gathering where African leaders are called by a non African president to attend a meeting regarding the future of Africa. That for me is the admittance by African leaders that they are unable to develop their own countries.

The problem of Africa is the present mindset of our leaders. They don't think that a solution for the African problems should come within Africa by the Africans. As long as this type of mental slavery will prevail among our leaders, Africa will never be developed. Just look back since the so called Independence of the continent, how many plans western countries brought to Africa, none of them worked. The situation in the continent is going from bad to worse.

In my humble opinion, our brother Obama should help us to free our minds instead of entertaining this illusion
In Response

by: S H from: USA
August 03, 2014 8:31 PM
I don't think you, or anyone should feel embarrassed. The President represents the most dynamic and powerful economy on Earth, and it makes perfect sense that the US organize and lead where others have yet to step.

It is we Americans who should feel embarrassed for the sins of of ancestors. Today we feel pride because the President is tending to this righteous work.

People are proud of Africa for surviving the so many abuses it has suffered.

by: mhassan from: sudan
August 02, 2014 5:26 PM
It looks like a fool's puzzle; U.S President self enhancement, humanitarian political tools and African interests; how to place the odds together; alternatively: how to drive the flock if that was acceptable

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