President Obama

President Obama to host U.S.-Africa Summit

President Obama has invited African leaders for a summit in Washington D.C. from August 4-6 next week. More than 200 business and political leaders from both the U.S. and Africa will be attending the summit which will focus on the continent’s development and the U.S. role in partnership and investment.

Obama invited all African nations that are currently in good standing with the United States or are not suspended from the African Union. Leaders from Egypt, Madagascar, Sudan and Zimbabwe will not be attending.  Egypt, is not eligible to attend as it is currently suspended from the African Union.  There will also be no invitation for Sudan, whose president, Omar al-Bashir, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).  The United States has sanctions against the Zimbabwean government of Robert Mugabe and his key officials over human rights abuses, political intimidation of opposition parties and role back of democracy.

Guinea-Bissau and Madagascar will not be attending the summit as well. The U.S. has concerns over the subversion of democracy in both nations.

One notable inclusion is Kenya, where President Uhuru Kenyatta is currently awaiting a delayed trial at the ICC on charges related to violence after an election in 2007 that left 1,000 people dead.

A White House statement said the trip would “advance the administration’s focus on trade and investment in Africa, and highlight America’s commitment to Africa’s security, its democratic development, and its people.”

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker when speaking to the Wall Street Journal, said deals worth billions of dollars would be reached at the meeting, adding that more money would be advanced to Africa for various development projects.

First Lady Michelle Obama, and former First Lady Laura Bush and the Bush Institute, will host a day-long spouses’ symposium at the Kennedy Center focused on the impact of investments in education, health, and public-private partnerships as well.

Throughout his years in office, President Obama has held numerous conferences and events focusing on building partnerships and investment for African nations. This upcoming summit is a continuation of that policy.

More information about the event can be found at the White House’s website.

Obama set to increase engagement with Africa in 2011

President has vowed to increase engagement with Africa this year.

President Barack Obama is quietly but strategically stepping up his outreach to Africa, using this year to increase his engagement with a continent that is personally meaningful to him and important to U.S. interests.

Expectations in Africa spiked after the election of an American president with a Kenyan father. But midway through his term, Obama’s agenda for Africa has taken a backseat to other foreign policy goals, such as winding down the Iraq war, fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan and resetting relations with Russia.

Obama aides believe those issues are now on more solid footing, allowing the president to expand his international agenda. He will focus in Africa on good governance and supporting nations with strong democratic institutions.

Obama delivered that message on his only trip to Africa since taking office, an overnight stop in Ghana in 2009, where he was mobbed by cheering crowds. In a blunt speech before the Ghanaian parliament, Obama said democracy is the key to Africa’s long-term development.

“That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long,” Obama said. “That is the change that can unlock Africa’s potential. And that is a responsibility that can only be met by Africans.”

The White House says Obama will travel to Africa again and the political calendar means the trip will almost certainly happen this year, before Obama has to spend more time on his re-election bid. No decision has been made on which countries Obama will visit, but deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said stops will reflect positive democratic models.

The administration is monitoring more than 30 elections expected across Africa this year, including critical contests in Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

“The U.S. is watching and we’re weighing in,” Rhodes said.

John Campbell, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, said the different elections give the Obama administration the opportunity to establish clear policies.

The administration “should be less willing to cut slack when those elections are less than free, fair and credible,” Campbell said.

The White House can send that message right now as it deals with the disputed election in Ivory Coast and an upcoming independence referendum in Sudan, which could split Africa’s largest country in two.

Rhodes said the president has invested significant “diplomatic capital” on Sudan, mentioning the referendum in nearly all of his conversations with the presidents of Russia and China, two countries which could wield influence over that Sudan’s government.

When Obama stopped in at a White House meeting last month of his national security advisers and United Nations ambassadors, the first topic he broached was Sudan, not Iran or North Korea. And as lawmakers on Capitol Hill neared the December vote on a new nuclear treaty with Russia, Obama called southern Sudan leader Salva Kiir by telephone to offer support for the referendum.

White House officials believe the postelection standoff in Ivory Coast could be the model for Obama’s stepped-up engagement in Africa.

The president tried to call incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo twice last month, from Air Force One as Obama returned from Afghanistan and then a week later. Neither call reached Gbagbo; administration officials believe the Ivorian leader sought to avoid contact. So Obama wrote Gbagbo a letter, offering him an international role if he stopped clinging to power and stepped down.

But Obama also made clear that the longer Gbagbo holds on, and the more complicit he becomes in violence across the country, the more limited his options become, said a senior administration official. The official insisted on anonymity to speak about administration strategy.

Human rights groups have accused Gbagbo’s security forces of abducting and killing hundreds of political opponents. The U.N. says it also has been barred entry from two suspected mass graves.

Rhodes said the White House understands that U.S. involvement in African politics can be viewed as meddling. But he said Obama can speak to African leaders with a unique level of candor, reflecting his personal connection to Africa and that his father and other family members have been affected by the corruption that plagues many countries there.

Officials also see increased political stability in Africa as good for long-term U.S. interests — a way to stem the growth of terrorism in east Africa and counterbalance China’s growing presence on the continent.

The U.S. was caught off guard during the 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen when several African countries voted with China and not the U.S., the administration official said. The official said the administration must persuade African nations that their interests are better served by aligning with the U.S.

Given the recent events in Libya and Ivory Coast, more engagement diplomatically with Africa will be a high priority and issue for the reminder of this year.

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President Obama Applauds “Successful” Southern Sudan Referendum

In Monday statement, Obama says U.S. to formally recognize sovereign state in July.

On behalf of the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Southern Sudan for a successful and inspiring referendum in which an overwhelmingly majority of voters chose independence.  I am therefore pleased to announce the intention of the United States to formally recognize Southern Sudan as a sovereign, independent state in July 2011.

After decades of conflict, the images of millions of southern Sudanese voters deciding their own future was an inspiration to the world and another step forward in Africa’s long journey toward justice and democracy.  Now, all parties have a responsibility to ensure that this historic moment of promise becomes a moment of lasting progress.  The Comprehensive Peace Agreement must be fully implemented and outstanding disputes must be resolved peacefully.  At the same time, there must be an end to attacks on civilians in Darfur and a definitive end to that conflict.

As I pledged in September when addressing Sudanese leaders, the United States will continue to support the aspirations of all Sudanese—north and south, east and west.  We will work with the governments of Sudan and Southern Sudan to ensure a smooth and peaceful transition to independence.  For those who meet all of their obligations, there is a path to greater prosperity and normal relations with the United States, including examining Sudan’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.  And while the road ahead will be difficult, those who seek a future of dignity and peace can be assured that they will have a steady partner and friend in the United States.

Here is a past article about the vote for independence and the worried outcomes from it.

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Obama to attend UN Sudan meeting

Confirmation has been made that President Obama will attend United Nations meeting on Sudan this upcoming week.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said Obama had accepted an invitation from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to a September 24 meeting on Sudan on the margins of the annual General Assembly gathering of world leaders.

The meeting in New York will bring together leaders from U.N. Security Council and other interested countries as well as United Nations, African Union and World Bank representatives.

It is expected to focus on a January 9 referendum among the people of semi-autonomous southern Sudan on whether to become an independent country, as well as on the seven-year-old conflict in Darfur, western Sudan.

“The president sees this meeting on the 24th as a very important vehicle for focusing international attention on … (the referendum) as Sudan approaches really the last critical 100 days before that vote takes place,” Rice said.
“The meeting in New York will also send important signals to the Sudanese people,” she told reporters on a conference call. “It will underscore that the international community … expects that political leaders will rise to the challenge of addressing the difficult issues that still have to be negotiated if there’s going to be lasting peace.”

Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sudan was a “ticking time-bomb” ahead of the vote and that the international community must redouble efforts to head off violence there.

The State Department said Clinton had telephoned Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha and southern leader Salva Kiir on Wednesday. It also said that Scott Gration, U.S. special envoy for Sudan, would make a new trip to the region on Thursday to pursue talks on preparing a peaceful referendum.

In Khartoum, state news agency SUNA said Taha told Clinton that Sudan’s government was committed to holding the plebiscite.

Clinton expressed her “satisfaction” with the progress toward holding the referendum, and also thanked the Sudanese government for helping to release a U.S. aid worker in Darfur last week after she had been held by kidnappers for more than 100 days, SUNA said.

KEY PROBLEMS

The referendum stems from a 2005 peace deal between Sudan’s mainly Arab north and mainly non-Arab south that ended a 20-year war after 2 million lives had been lost, mostly through hunger and disease.

Key problems need to be resolved before the vote, especially on defining the north-south border, along which most of Sudan’s oil wealth is believed to lie.

“The situation north/south is a ticking time-bomb of enormous consequence,” Clinton said in response to a question after a speech on U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations think tank in Washington.

“The time frame is very short. Pulling together this referendum is going to be difficult, we’re going to need a lot of help,” Clinton said. “But the real problem is what happens when the inevitable happens and the referendum is passed and the south declares independence.”

She said the United States had put “all hands on deck” to help with referendum preparations, noting that former senior U.S. diplomat Princeton Lyman had been sent to help the two sides thrash out key issues on sharing wealth and power.

U.S. officials have openly said they see the referendum as the key issue at present in Sudan. But some activists have criticized Gration for what they say is an overly conciliatory approach to the northern government in Khartoum, and for appearing to minimize the violence in Darfur.

A 2003 uprising in Darfur sparked a harsh government response, leading to a humanitarian catastrophe that the United Nations says has killed as many as 300,000 people.

Other countries have not said who they are sending to the September 24 meeting in New York, but Obama’s attendance is likely to raise its profile.

The Washington Post reported that the Obama administration has held daily interagency meetings on Sudan for the past two weeks. It’s all in preparation for President Obama’s first direct interaction with Sudanese leaders since taking office; this week he will meet for an hour with Sudan’s Vice President Ali Osman Taha and South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

In short, with all that remains to be done to prepare for the monumental referenda in January and a smooth transition period following the vote, high-level engagement by the United States couldn’t have come soon enough.

President Obama’s long awaited meeting with Sudanese leaders this week will set the stage for whether this US administration is seen as a credible arbiter in Sudan for the next 100 days and beyond.

NPR Interview : Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador To United Nations: Situation In Sudan Is ‘Precarious’

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President Obama hosts forum with young African leaders

Last week was a remarkable week. Known as “Africa week”,  three major Africa-related programs were held: The President’s Forum with Young African Leaders, the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act Forum, and the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program.

I will first cover the President’s forum.  It was a town hall style event with 115 young leaders from across Africa.  The president addressed the questions and concerns of young people from across the continent.

President Obama spent an hour talking with some of the young leaders of African civil society, in an unprecedented forum in the East Room of the White House.

He called Africa “the youngest continent,” and said that because a large percentage of Africans are under 30-years-old, his administration especially needs to reach the continent’s young people.

“If all you are doing is talking to old men like me, then you are not reaching the people who are going to be providing the energy, the new initiatives, the new ideas,” said President Obama. “And so we thought that it would be very important for us to bring the next generation of leaders together.”

The talks come as civil society and private sector leaders from more than 40 sub-Saharan countries had three days of talks in Washington, with 17 of these countries celebrating 50 years of independence in 2010.

Michelle Gavin, the senior director of African affairs at the US National Security Council, said the meetings are in keeping with the spirit of Obama’s remarks when he visited Ghana, west Africa last year.

“We’re partners, but we’re not the drivers,” Gavin told reporters at the State Department, recalling Obama said the future of Africa is up to Africans themselves.

“And the real drivers are African youth. It’s the lion’s share of the society. And they’re going to determine what the next 50 years will bring,” Gavin said.

The president encouraged the young leaders to stand up for democracy.

“If you are part of an organization where you have professed democracy, but women do not have an equal voice in your organization, then you are a hypocrite,” said Mr. Obama.

President Obama addressed questions about Africa’s most troubled countries – Zimbabwe and Somalia.
Sidney Chisi, who founded the Youth Initiative for Democracy in Zimbabwe, raised a concern about abuses committed by his country’s president.

“Robert Mugabe is still using the rhetoric of sanctions, racism, property rights abuse and human rights abuse, in violation of the rule of law,” said Sidney Chisi.  Mr. Obama said he is “heartbroken” by the situation in Zimbabwe – a country, he said, that should be the “breadbasket of Africa.”

“I think Mugabe is an example of a leader who came in as a liberation fighter, and – I am just going to be very blunt – I do not see him serving his people well,” said President Obama.  The president said he would like to increase diplomatic and economic ties with Zimbabwe.  But he said he fears that doing so would entrench Mr. Mugabe’s rule.

The leader of the Somali Youth Leadership Forum, Abdi Najma Ahmed, then asked whether Americans are prepared to give financial and moral support to those working for democracy in Somalia.

“And being part of the diaspora that went back to risk our lives in order to make Somalia a better place – especially with what we are going through right now – how much support do we expect from the U.S.,” asked Abdi Najma Ahmed.
Mr. Obama responded by saying that Americans and the U.S. government desperately want Somalia to succeed.

“I think you will have enormous support from the people of the United States when it comes to trying to create a structure and framework in Somalia that works for the Somali people,” said Mr. Obama.  He said American and Somali interests intersect, which he also said is true of other African nations.

Shamima Muslim, who hosts a radio program in Ghana, said her listeners sometimes question the U.S. commitment to its relationships in Africa.  “Is America committed to ensuring a partnership that might not necessarily be beneficial to America, but [is] truly beneficial to the sovereign interests of the countries that we represent,” asked Shamima Muslim.

Mr. Obama replied that the interests of the United States and Africa often overlap, and that America has a huge interest in seeing development across Africa.

“We are a more mature economy and Africa is a young and growing economy,” he said. “And if you can buy more iPods and buy more products and buy more services and buy more tractors from us, that we can sell to a fast-growing continent, that creates jobs here in the United States of America.”

The president also took questions from young leaders from Mali, Liberia, Mozambique and Malawi.

He said that while corruption is still widespread in some African countries, the continent is on the move, thanks to its inspiring young people.

In his speech in Accra, Ghana, last year, Obama told African audiences of the need to advance entrepreneurship, education and the use of technology to help integrate Africa more fully into the global economy. Africa’s share of world trade is less than 2 percent, and Africa’s tremendous wealth in natural resources has not translated into greater prosperity for its people.

The Obama administration is dedicating significant resources to address some of these challenges. The $3.5 billion food-security initiative called Feed the Future helps 12 African-focus countries in modernizing their farm sectors. And the United States is working with African partners to maximize economic development and trade through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which is holding its annual meeting at the same time as the young leaders’ forum.

“These steps are about more than growth numbers on a balance sheet. They’re about whether a young person with an education can get a job that supports a family; a farmer can transfer their goods to market; an entrepreneur with a good idea can start a business,” Obama said. “It’s about the dignity of work; it’s about the opportunity that must exist for Africans in the 21st century.”

The United States has helped foster Africa’s trading capacity through AGOA. U.S. imports and exports from the 38 AGOA-eligible nations totaled $104.52 billion in 2008, a 28 percent increase from the previous year. Complete trade figures for 2009 are being compiled, but give an indication of another good year, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

But Obama also said in Accra that the future of Africa is up to Africans. “The U.S. government’s role in [the young leaders’ forum] is as a convener, encouraging networks between young American and African leaders, and pursuing lasting partnerships on behalf of our common security and prosperity,” the White House said. “This dialogue and follow-up events in Africa will help the U.S. government better assess how to support Africa’s own aspirations going forward.”

In Ghana, Obama told Africans that “in the 21st century, capable, reliable and transparent institutions are the key to success — strong parliaments; honest police forces; independent judges; an independent press; a vibrant private sector; a civil society. Those are the things that give life to democracy, because that is what matters in people’s everyday lives.”

This year 17 nations across sub-Saharan Africa are celebrating 50 years of independence. Since the early 1990s, democracy has made significant strides. Democratic elections have been held recently in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Mauritius and Ghana, which illustrates the importance that Africans have placed on democracy and democratic values, the White House said.

The young African leaders also met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, other government officials and civil society leaders.  This is what Secretary Clinton said about the importance of Africa.

I see Africa as a continent brimming with potential, a place that has so much just waiting to be grasped. Sixty percent of the population of Africa is under the age of 25. And that means that there’s a lot of work to be done to make sure that those young people are educated, are healthy, are motivated, are given the tools of opportunity. But it also means that Africa has not just the potential, but the promise of becoming a leader in innovation, in design, in creativity of all that you, your families, communities, and countries can become.”

The Secretary continued, “Across Africa, more citizens believe they now have the power and the duty to shape their own lives, to help their communities, to hold their governments accountable. So for all of the challenges, which we hear much about, I want to focus on these gains, because it is through this positive progress that we can motivate and incentivize even more to take place. And ultimately, it is up to you. The President and I very much believe in Africa’s promise and we can do what’s possible from afar to assist and to be front-row cheerleaders, if you will. But ultimately, it is up to you, and to citizens like you to make sure that we sustain and deepen the progress.

This event comes at a time when Africa has seen its relationship enhanced both strategically and economically by Washington.

“We feel when you look at the continent of Africa and the strategic significance on a go-forward basis, in terms of resources and frankly from trade and other relationships, we see this as a great opportunity to reach out to young leaders from across the continent,” McHale told reporters.

I think it is a great opportunity where African Young leader would be inspired with the sublime democracy spirit from Washington that African needs to build their future to the coming generations, to defeat diseases, to fight terror & conflicts and wars a great move toward peace building eradicating Disease such as HIV/AIDS, Malira , USA always stands with other nations. The White House & the Department of State are playing a great role in bringing nations together into a great Human Harmony.

Here is video of the event.

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Agoa’s New Policy Under Obama Administration

Agoa’s architects unveil new policy under Obama administration:

Ten years after the enactment of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a coalition of its original architects and supporters on Monday unveiled a comprehensive new trade and economic policy to be presented to the Obama Administration that would build on AGOA’s successes and expand the growing trade relationship between Africa and the United States.

The new policy proposal, entitled Enterprise for Development: A New Policy Approach Toward Africa, calls for the continuation of AGOA’s exclusive duty- and quota-free access to the US market for African goods, as well as policies to strengthen and grow indigenous enterprises in Africa and measures that support job creation, export promotion and prosperity in both the US and Africa.

At an AGOA Leaders Forum in Washington, DC, hosted by a coalition of AGOA’s US supporters, and attended by African Ministers of Finance and Ambassadors, as well as other AGOA stakeholders and business and policy leaders, Ms. Rosa Whitaker, chair of the AGOA Action Committee and President and CEO of The Whitaker Group, the premier US trade consultancy facilitating trade between the US and Africa, hailed the success of AGOA over the past decade in creating more than 300,000 jobs in Africa and bringing about $300 billion in export earnings and nearly $30 billion in non-oil exports to Africa at a minimal cost to US taxpayers.

“Over the past decade, we have learned that AGOA should be just one tool – albeit a critical one – in America’s arsenal to support Africa as it grows its own prosperity. We have learned that what Africa needs from the United States is a concerted, multifaceted trade and investment policy that brings together the trade preferences of AGOA with trade capacity building, strategic development assistance and incentives to spur greater foreign direct investment by U.S. businesses in Africa,” she said.

Mr. Thahane emphasized that Africans are not saying that the US Congress should not grant special trade preferences to LDCs in Asia, but that legislators should provide preferences that would help struggling sectors in those countries, rather than benefit sectors that are already successful. “Preferences for Bangladesh and Cambodia should not be at the expense of sub-Saharan Africa,” he said…

Even without duty-free and quota-free access to the US market, Bangladesh and Cambodia export over $5 billion in apparel each year to the United States – more than five times the total of all clothing exported to the US by all 48 SSA countries combined.

The minister also pointed out that unlike Bangladesh and Cambodia, both of which have agricultural resources, resource-poor Lesotho, Africa’s top apparel exporter, has few other alternatives. “Extending preferences to these countries might kill that industry that started in Lesotho 10 years ago,” he said. “Let us look at AGOA in an open and strategic manner. There are people [in Africa] who have been making a living out of access to the US.”

AGOA has demonstrated that if we have the market opportunities, Africa can respond, it can produce, it can deliver. Give us a break and we can deliver,” Mr. Thahane added. “African governments are trying to reach larger markets through regional integration, but we have to have the infrastructure and we also need the skills. The entry point has been AGOA and let us not dilute it, let us expand it and make it global.

Dr. Collier described AGOA as so successful that it should be replicated by the European Union and Japan. “There is a real opportunity for AGOA to go global. If we had a Super AGOA that included Europe and Japan, it would make life so much easier for Africa,” he said, describing the trade preferences offered by AGOA as the “pump priming mechanisms” that are helping African nations to break into manufacturing and the global market.

“We know where trade preferences should go, and where they should be kept out,” he said. “If we give them to one huge manufacturer [like Bangladesh], it would cut out all the little manufacturers. These big manufacturers must be kept out because they are not entrants into manufacturing. Bangladesh doesn’t need privileged access. There are many ways to help Bangladesh because it is still poor but [giving preferential trade access to its apparel sector] is not the way to do it.”

The proposals that were recommended were to include:

  • Making AGOA permanent and exclusive to Africa and expanding duty- and quota-free access to more African products.
  • Extending tax incentives and credits for US investors in Africa, and supporting regional integration through AGOA.
  • Developing an effective plan to work with African nations to revitalize the region’s agricultural sector, support local processing and value-addition for Africa’s agricultural products, support increased sourcing of African agricultural products from initiatives such as the World Food Program and support technology transfers, technical assistance and assistance to African agricultural exporters to meet US sanitary and phyto-sanitary requirements, and boost overall US support for a Green Revolution in African agriculture.
  • Reform the US foreign aid program to focus more on trade capacity-building initiatives, extending loans to African businesses in the same way that the Marshall Plan rebuilt Europe’s business sector following World War Two, and supporting regional development and energy and infrastructure development in Africa.
  • Expanding and reforming the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) so that it focuses its resources on building African energy and transportation sectors and gives top priority bidding to US and African companies and procurement projects.
  • Increasing financing for US exports to Africa through the US Export-Import Bank.
  • Increasing support to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) to enable it to support African equity and infrastructure funds, increase assistance to small- and medium-sized companies in Africa, and more funding for the African Technical Assistance Initiative.

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